The silence on football’s relationship to sexual and domestic violence is deafening | football

TThere are a lot of problems in football. There is a lot of discussion about football problems. However, there is a chaotic silence when it comes to the game’s disturbing links with sexual and domestic violence.

why? Why aren’t there hundreds of opinion articles on this? It’s hard and pointless to categorize all the dark sides of the game – from racism to sports washing, from homophobia to corruption – but these conversations are there.

There is no exciting experience, and no insight into when it comes to sexual assault or domestic violence. Both are just horrific horrific crimes. It is unpleasant to read and legally impossible to write about. Is there a link between the lack of any meaningful discussion and the fact that some football fans seem to agree to applaud and cheer for an alleged rapist? Defending a suspected wife, but booing their opponent – just using her as another trivial part of a tribal rivalry?

Even court proceedings became internet memes, fodder for WhatsApp – without any mention of the seriousness of the crime. Any footballer in the league on Sunday will have heard the act of rape to describe a winger hitting a defender. Nostalgic TV and radio shows often erase this difficult part of someone’s life – because, well, it makes the mood worse, right?

Football and sports occupy a strange place in our lives. It’s close enough to dictate your feelings, some of the most open displays of passion – but far enough away from everyday life that you can approach it in a kind of moral void. Between 3 and 5 AM your normal code of ethics doesn’t need to be applied – especially if he’s a really good player we’re talking about. Yes he might have done it, but boy could he break up the play. If your best buddy rapes someone, or gets accused, it should affect that relationship – however a footballer can be guilty of assaulting the mother of his children and that is quickly forgotten.

How do we talk about it? Sky can barely flash player stats before the match: games 38, goals 14, assists 4, average km 13.2, suspected rapes: 1 (Google doesn’t use these facts to check if it’s a reference to any player, it’s not ). You can’t accidentally drop your EFL report, ‘But a new signature [redacted] [redacted] – Police recently interrogated him after accusations of beating his wife – She retracted the man 15 minutes before the break.

This column did not mention any specific case. It is very difficult to talk about the topic for a variety of legal reasons. Of course the column without details and without a story and without names is less interesting. As a result, no one wrote it down, and the conversation never took place.

Janey Starling is from a group called Level Up, which is a feminist campaign group that wants to see a world where everyone is loved and freed from gender-based violence. Earlier this year, along with the 3 Hijabs Coalition and End Violence Against Women, Level Up Send an open letter to the Premier League and the Football Associationand requiring mandatory consent to coach and discipline players who have caused harm. I have carried out high-profile campaigns on this topic, with the help of interested fans. The goal – “Break the silence around rape in sport. We are targeting football because we know it is a huge space where a lot of people are. But talking about sexual violence doesn’t really happen.”

Two women in the UK are killed by an accomplice every week. At the same time, only one percent of the charges lead to a conviction for rape. “We need to see clubs take responsibility for players and not just leave them to a failing criminal justice system, which rarely serves justice for rape victims,” ​​Starling says.

The Premier League recently announced mandatory sexual consent training – something Level Up supports: “A lot of these players come through academies. Clubs are responsible for letting them know their worldview. We know that training more broadly across the community on sexual consent is what happens in Schools, it happens in the workplace. Why is soccer different? We know that sexual violence is an act of power and control. It’s something we see a lot in industries like film and 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 counter that.”

So what should happen to players accused of these crimes? Of course, they are innocent until proven guilty. But since the conviction rate is so low, this kind of all-or-nothing solution seems insufficient. Should football authorities become a kind of civil court – on the basis of probability rather than reasonable suspicion? This is clearly not what the Premier League or any other governing body was set up to do. “Where there are allegations, a serious investigation needs to be done. I think it should come from an independent ombudsman because the clubs will protect their clubs, and not every woman wants to go to the police. It is about clubs taking the allegations seriously. And then when there are investigations going on, Players should not be on the field.”

Obviously, it’s hard to quantify the extent of the problem within the game. “There are footballers who are brilliant men who have families and who do their job and just act. So, what’s the excuse?” says Starling. You wonder how your teammates – not to mention the doctors, coaches, managers and anyone else who works at the club – feel the need to work alongside the alleged rapists.

Football is not the only place where people hide behind money and lawyers to avoid justice – there will always be questions about whether football is just a mirror of society. The rule of law is important. But as Starling concludes: “Football needs courage to have this conversation. Because I think there is a real lack of courage to face the complex reality that footballers can be absolutely excellent athletes and hurt women too. It’s not this or that. It’s just The fact that they both exist, and their professional experience should not protect them from the consequences if they do any harm to anyone, just like everyone else in society.”

It’s complicated, but football’s governing bodies will only work if people care about it and talk about it. Sometimes we have to face things we’d rather ignore. Only then will football and sport truly be for everyone.

in the UK, rape crisis Provides support for rape and sexual assault to 0808802 9999 in England and Wales, 0808801 0302 at Scotlandor 0800 0246991 inch northern Ireland. in the United States, Rain Offer support at 800-656-4673. In Australia, support is available at 1800 respect (1800737732). Other international helplines can be found at

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