The economic importance of some athletes for professional football, misunderstood rules of respect for privacy and unambitious regulations when it comes to curbing certain behaviours. The combination of all these factors has allowed the English Premier League to currently have at least two players and a manager active, despite the fact that the police keep open investigations into them for sexual abuse, according to the BBC in an exclusive investigation.
The professional league and the Football Association (FA, which is the English federation) have preferred to prioritise their commercial interests over the safety of women, and let people who can perfectly well re-offend continue to play and make a name for themselves, their victims have assured journalists from the British public broadcaster.
Despite the English league's assurances that it takes any possible allegations of sexual abuse very seriously, at least seven of the 20 clubs that are part of the competition have had players, managers or coaches implicated in abuse cases and investigated by authorities in the last three years, according to the BBC. Many of the victims presented their cases to the clubs or to the Premier League itself, after going to the police, to prevent the situation from reoccurring. For months they were faced with a lack of response, an enormous slowness in giving explanations, zero transparency and, above all, no action on the matter.
British privacy laws prevent the BBC from naming any of the suspects reported by the victims. The internal regulations of the Premier League and the clubs only allow a response to accusations of this nature when the reported events occur in a football environment, or affect minors or adults in vulnerable situations.
One of the victims told the BBC that the lack of response from clubs and the FA itself when he told them he had accused a player of rape led him to consider a suicide attempt. "I didn't want to continue living in a world where I was constantly reminded that rape allegations can be ignored, as long as you're a good enough player," he told reporters. Another woman who was raped by a player has said nothing would have happened if the FA and the club had acted after another victim's previous allegations in 2021.
Rishi Sunak's government has introduced a law creating an independent regulator to oversee the ethical behaviour of football clubs and associations in its legislative agenda for the current session of the House of Commons. Caroline Dinenage, the chair of the parliamentary committee on culture, sport and media, has described the BBC's information as "extremely worrying" and has recalled that players are public figures "with an enormous amount of influence". She is confident, she said, that the new regulatory body will be able to deal with these allegations of sexual violence against women.
The information details the alleged crimes committed by a footballer he calls "Player X". At least five women accuse him of rape, sexual assault and controlling behavior. One of them, who is named as Leah, reported the player to the police for rape in July 2022. He was arrested at his own home. Shortly thereafter he was arrested again on another previous allegation of rape of a second woman, named Kira. Both contacted the club and the AF to inform them of the facts, and received the response that they could not discuss the matter with them for legal reasons. Months later they saw, through social networks, how the club celebrated the player's successes and promoted him.
In the case of Kate, another of the victims, her complaint was directed against a man who now holds a managerial position in the Premier League. "He's very powerful, and he threatened me to keep my silence," she told the BBC. She reported him to the police in the early 2021s. He had no answer. The MeToo movement prompted him to bring the case back into the open. In 15, the executive was again investigated for alleged sexual abuse of a <>-year-old girl, around the same time he allegedly abused Kate. He has denied the allegations. He remains in his position.
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