"The conversation on sexual violence isn’t happening"
Although there are lots of conversations about the problems in football, there seems to be silence when it comes to denouncing footballers and the link to sexual violence against women.
Despite arguably being the most popular played and watched sport in the world, there are lots of issues in the world of football which are not on the pitch.
With the obscene wages players get, some of the public think men are getting away with a lot of violent acts due to their wealth and fame.
DESIblitz will discuss the possible reasons why this pressing topic is swept under the carpet and the implications it has.
Football and Female Sexual Violence – Is it Taboo?
Ranking all the dark elements of the game, from racism to homophobia, to corruption, would be difficult and futile, but those discussions do take place.
When it comes to sexual assault or domestic abuse, there is no hot take or piercing insight. Both crimes are just abhorrently heinous.
They are terrible to read about and almost illegal to write about from a legal standpoint.
Is there a connection between the absence of substantive conversation and certain football fans’ apparent comfort level with clapping and supporting a suspect in rape?
It is not unheard of for fans from football teams in the limelight due to sexual violence allegations, to boo their rivals whilst defending their own players’ acts.
Is this merely utilising it as a pawn in a pointless aspect of primitive rivalry?
Without mentioning the severity of the crime, even judicial processes become WhatsApp gossip and online memes on Twitter.
The culture of football in Britain alludes to the lack of concern for sexual-based violence against women within the sport
For example, most Sunday league football players have probably heard the word “rape” used to describe a winger bypassing a defender successfully.
Among the culture of football – it is interesting to note the position it takes in the lives of many fans across the world.
Many fans are oblivious to certain terms they use to describe specific moments or plays within football.
Whilst they may use some words in a different context, there is a fragile disassociation with these phrases that make them “less impactful” when used in the “correct” context.
A football player may be found guilty of abusing the mother of his children and it’s quickly forgotten.
However, if your work colleague committed a crime against someone or was charged, it would probably have an impact on your outlook on who they are and whether you should affiliate yourself with them.
Famous Examples of Accused Footballers
After Ryan Giggs and Benjamin Mendy, Mason Greenwood is the most recent player in English football to be accused of allegedly abusing a woman.
The situation involving the Manchester United attacker has brought attention to a wider issue with English football.
Harriet Robson has accused Greenwood of abusing her violently in 2022, and after the publication of an audio tape, rape allegations have also been made.
Robson published images and videos of the claimed injuries Greenwood inflicted on her.
The audio and images, in which the footballer seemingly coerces Robson into having sex with him, were distressing and alarming to the British public.
When his teammates unfollowed him on social media, United quickly separated themselves and announced that the striker would not return to training.
Sources have claimed that the Manchester United striker’s partnership with Nike has been severed by the renowned sports brand.
In February 2023, all charges of abuse have been dropped against the footballer.
This received public outcry due to the proof provided to social media months earlier.
The situation is comparable to that of Benjamin Mendy, who was charged with several charges of rape and sexual assault against six different women between October 2018 and August 2021.
Mendy was detained since August 2020 and freed on bail early in 2021 while he awaited his trial, which would determine whether he was guilty or innocent.
Since this, a development in his case found that in early January 2023, Benjamin Mendy was cleared of six counts of rape – he still awaits trial for the remaining two counts of sexual assault allegations.
Former Manchester United player and Wales manager Ryan Giggs was awaiting trial following his arrest in November 2020.
Giggs was then charged with hitting his partner’s sister and engaging in psychological abuse after a neighbour overheard a loud quarrel.
Due to a shortage of available court dates, his trial, which was originally scheduled for January 2022 was moved to August 2022.
Since then, the court struggled to conclude the case and discharged the case in August 2022. Although, the court has ordered a potential retrial in June 2023.
Not only that, but things continue in the connection between footballers and sexual violence.
English Premier League club Everton suspended a player after he was detained on suspicion of child sex offenses.
What Can be Done to Influence Change?
Janey Starling is a member of the feminist advocacy organisation Level Up, which works to eradicate gender-based violence and create a society where everyone is respected.
Level Up, The 3 Hijabis, and the Stop Violence Against Women Coalition submitted an open letter to the Premier League and FA earlier in 2022.
They called for required consent education and sanctions for violent players who have allegedly been accused of sexual violence.
With the aid of football fans who are concerned about the silent issue, it has run well-known campaigns on the matter. Describing their aims, they stated they want:
“To break the silence around rape in sports.
“We’re targeting football because we know that it’s a huge space that so many people are in.
“But the conversation on sexual violence isn’t happening.”
In the UK, a minimum of two women are subject to death by their male partners.
Meanwhile, just 1% of sexual violence accusations by women result in a rape conviction.
“We need to see clubs taking responsibility for players and not just leaving it to the failing criminal justice system, which rarely serves justice for rape victims.”
The English Premier League announced in August 2022 that all players are required to training on sexual consent, which Level Up supports:
“A lot of these players are coming up through academies.
“The clubs are responsible for informing their worldview.
“We know that training more broadly across society on sexual consent is what happens in schools, it’s happening in workplaces.
“So why would football be any different?
“We know that sexual violence is an act of power and control. It’s something that we see a lot in industries like film and in government.
“Wherever there is power and control in society, there will be sexual violence.”
“Sexual consent is really important and football is a really important place to be confronting that.”
So what should happen to players who are accused of committing these crimes?
Undoubtedly, they are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
Yet this type of all-or-nothing approach seems inappropriate given the low conviction rate.
Should football’s governing bodies adopt the standard of the preponderance of the evidence rather than reasonable doubt, similar to a civil court?
Neither the Premier League nor any other regulatory body was established to do this function.
There should be a thorough inquiry when there have been claims of sexual violence against a footballer.
However, because most football clubs will defend their own, and not all women want to go to the police – the verdict has to come from an impartial investigator.
Despite this, the clubs must take the accusations seriously.
For example, players should also not be on the field while investigations are continuing.
It is difficult to estimate the scope of the issue within the game.
Some footballers are brilliant men who have families and just do their job and behave. So, what’s the excuse?
You do wonder how teammates – not to mention physios, coaches, managers and anyone else employed at the club – feel about having to work alongside alleged abusers.
Is Football Influencing Violence Toward Women?
Although the issue extends beyond players, it does exist throughout the sport.
Domestic violence charges surged during the European Championship after England’s defeat to Italy in the championship game.
Women made up about 90% of the casualties.
According to a 2013 research from the University of Lancaster, incidents also rose when England lost or drew a game.
Male violence against women instances increased by up to 38% in games that were lost compared to games that were won or drawn, which witnessed increases of up to 26%.
According to the National Centre for Domestic Violence, these numbers represent “just the tip of the iceberg.”
The bravery to have this discussion is something football needs.
There is a serious lack of will to face the difficult fact that footballers may be incredibly talented athletes while simultaneously harming women. And it’s not one or the other.
Simply put, both of them exist, and their professional competence should not shield them from punishment if they damage someone, just like any other member of society.
Although it is complicated, the authorities that oversee football will only take action if people care and if they talk about it.
Sometimes we must face issues we’d prefer to ignore. Sport and football will then truly be accessible to everybody.