Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1127/32287

From The Socialist newspaper, 31 March 2021

Football abuse scandal: Reclaim the game for justice and democracy

Photo: Public Domain

Photo: Public Domain   (Click to enlarge)

Matt Dobson, Socialist Party Scotland

Four years after the explosive and powerful testimony of ex-footballer Andy Woodward, an independent review into child sexual abuse in football between 1970-2005 has been published by the Football Association (FA).

The fallout, with many ex-players feeling confident to come forward, including former England international Paul Stewart, led to then FA chairman Greg Clarke stating this was the "biggest crisis in the organisation's history". This resulted in Clive Sheldon's review.

For many survivors, four years was too long. Their public request for an interim report was not granted. There isn't just harrowing evidence in Sheldon's report of sexual abuse of children by prolific paedophile coaches who operated at professional clubs such as Barry Bennell. There is also evidence of what happened to survivors afterwards as they struggled with trauma causing addiction, relationship and family breakdowns, suicide attempts, as well as damaged football careers.

Sheldon's report has had a significant impact. Disgracefully, it was only its publication that forced public apologies from some of the seventeen professional clubs that are named. Some of the apologies, like that of Crewe Alexandra, whose board still has links with those who ran the club at the time of the abuse by Bennell, are, in the words of survivors, "mealy mouthed".

Crewe says sorry, but with the qualification "if there were in fact any warning signs that ought to have led the club to do more". This is in response to Sheldon criticising the club for not monitoring Bennell despite a director getting police advice.

In one shocking part of the report, Dario Gradi, a famous coach and manager at Crewe and Chelsea, now banned by the FA for life, who worked with two abusers, Bennell and Eddie Heath, initially says to Sheldon that he does not regard someone forcing their hand down a boy's trousers as assault.

In January 2017, the Socialist raised the sheer scale of the problem of child sexual abuse in football. The report confirms this. Police Operation Hydrant has dealt with 600 survivors and 240 suspects. We also raised concern at football's governing bodies and their corporate nature running an inquiry, and called for a genuinely independent inquiry involving survivors groups, players and football unions, and the wider trade union movement.

The correctness of this stance has been borne out by the serious weaknesses of this inquiry and that of clubs since the media gave coverage to the issue. Neither involved survivors in working out a remit.

Abuse survivor Ian Ackley, one of the very first to come forward in the powerful 1997 Channel 4 Dispatches documentary 'Soccer's Foul Play', said the report was as "dilute as Vimto for two-year olds".

He also points to a key weakness in Sheldon's recommendations, that of how an infrastructure around child protection in football will be funded despite massive big business profits by sponsors. Sheldon even only recommends that staff trained in this field are employed part time at non-league and amateur level.

Many ex-player survivors also rightly point out that Sheldon is too soft on both the clubs and the FA, using the historical context that public awareness of child abuse in sport and wider society was lower in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Despite sizeable evidence contained in the report about warning signs from expert academics, and many rumours and complaints about inappropriate behaviour, at that stage survivors did not feel confident to disclose sexual abuse around abusers at clubs.

The report uses contradictory language. On the one hand there are "institutional failures" at the FA, which gave little priority to child protection. But this is down to "naivety" and was still ahead of other sports. This does not make clear enough that the FA's priorities were driven in this period by corporate interests, the creation of the lucrative Premier League, World Cup bids, the new Wembley stadium and hosting Euro 96. Sheldon only makes recommendations to the FA and clubs. No independent body exists to regulate their actions in future.

Corporate priority over player welfare at clubs is also outlined in the report. Evidence is presented that Gradi lobbied Crewe for Bennell, who worked as a scout of players, to receive part of his financial commission from transfer fees when talented players were sold, despite rumours and concerns by directors about Bennell's methods.

Sheldon's recommendations are also weak about what support provision there will be for survivors in the future.

Football is big business-dominated, reflecting capitalist society. In such a profit-driven system there are power imbalances and limited democratic checks on who wields power.

The Sheldon report shows abusers often targeted the most working-class players and their families, using gifts and the promise of a transformed life of riches to groom children.

Fans, players and coaches need to reclaim our beautiful game. Football clubs should be run democratically under community ownership. They and governing bodies should be non-profit with the election of officials and coaches, subject to recall.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • We must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation

 

Your message: 

 


In The Socialist 31 March 2021:


Elections

Mobilise Liverpool workers to defy Tory commissioners and austerity

London - We need socialists into City Hall

Warning: Labour Party cutters - careful who you phone!


News

Domestic Abuse Bill: So much still to fight for

We will not be the lost generation

Shrewsbury pickets exonerated after almost 50 years

'Chingford skinhead' spills the beans over government surveillance of union activists

Freeports spell deregulation, low pay and a new race to the bottom

No start for life


Right to protest

Unite and fight - For the right to protest

Defending the right to protest


Socialist analysis

Preparing for the revolts to come


NHS

Cumberland hospital workers fight for stolen pay

NHS pay: 15% now!


Workplace news

Trade union fighters rally to support victimised workers

BT Openreach engineers step up the pressure with five-day strike action

Asda equal pay ruling victory - now fight for equal pay for all

SPS Technologies workers strike against potential pay loss of 3,000 a year

Deskilling protests by sparks electricians continue

Beal academy strikers demand equal sick pay

Goodlord strike starts to bite

Nationalise Liberty Steel to save jobs

British Gas workers strike ahead of 'fire and rehire' deadline


Reports & campaigns

Online rally - 150 years since the Paris Commune

Selling the Socialist

Donate now to fuel our election campaigns


Readers' opinion

Football abuse scandal: Reclaim the game for justice and democracy

Socialist Liverpool City Council inspired me

Women, violence and defiance

The Socialist Inbox


 

Home   |   The Socialist 31 March 2021   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Football:

triangleJohn Barnes on class and capitalism. What's missing?

triangleNewcastle United takeover - no to billionaire Ashley or Saudi despots

triangleNewcastle United takeover: No to billionaire Ashley or Saudi despots

triangleWaltham Forest Socialist Party: Is capitalism good for sport?

triangleFootball: Smash racism

Democracy:

trianglePolice attempt to intimidate Newcastle protesters

triangleUsdaw's virtual annual conference - a mockery of union democracy

triangleDefending the right to protest

triangleSham inquiry into 'progressive extremism'

Independent:

triangleJustice for Moyied Bashir

triangleMet police investigate British mercenary war crimes against Tamils

triangleIndependent Socialist Group interim statement on 2020 US election

Children:

triangleVictory! Hackney children's centres saved

triangleHackney children's centres: Campaigners see through council deception

Big business:

triangleEnd profit-fuelled crisis

Child abuse:

triangleNotts child abuse scandal: Socialist Party demands action programme to prevent future cases

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

24/11/21

NHS

Workers' action can defeat weak and divided Tories

24/11/21

Violence against women

End sexism and violence against women

24/11/21

Disability

The struggle for accessible workplaces and an inclusive society

24/11/21

Cricket

Cricket's history of racism and elitism

24/11/21

Cuts

Working class strangled by price rises and pay cuts

24/11/21

Eastern

HS2 eastern route cancelled: Fight for a workers' plan for public transport

24/11/21

Pensions

Tories hammer nail in pensions triple lock coffin

24/11/21

NHS

Tories responsible for NHS staff shortages

17/11/21

Sleaze

Tory sleaze scandal continues, an ex-workers' MP responds

17/11/21

Climate change

Youth fight for well-paid green jobs and socialist change

17/11/21

NHS

Cuts drag NHS to brink

17/11/21

NHS

NHS workers must take action now to save our NHS

17/11/21

NHS

Outsourced Barts health workers in strike ballot for a pay rise

17/11/21

Health

Health and care staff shortages worsened by Tory vaccine sacking threat

17/11/21

MPs

London MPs' second home swindle while workers and students struggle

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 077 7221 5281

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 078 0983 9793

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


November 2021

October 2021

September 2021

August 2021

July 2021

June 2021

May 2021

April 2021

March 2021

February 2021

January 2021

2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999