The Independent Review into Childhood Sex Abuse in Football 1970 – 2005
5.7 Sexual abuse in Girls’ Football
The Review lists several cases in which the abuser had a role in football and abused girls outside of the footballing context. The most high profile conviction was that of Chelsea Football Coach, Graham Rix, who was convicted of unlawful sex and indecent assault against a 15 year old girl in 1999.
The vast majority of cases studied for the Review related to male survivors of child sexual abuse. This is unsurprising given that, whilst women’s football is seeing a rapid rise in popularity, the sport continues to be male dominated.
The cases reviewed for the report may not however give an accurate picture of abuse against girls in football. The report finds at paragraph 5.2.1 that relatively few people reported abuse at all and that the actual level of abuse in general is likely to be far higher than we know.
In addition to this, it is currently legal for sports coaches to engage in sexual relationships with under-18s in their care; incidents of sexual activity between coaches and girls over the age of 6 would therefore not be included in any current statistics around abuse in football. This is a safeguarding issue that leaves girls vulnerable to grooming and abuse by those in positions of power over their footballing careers.
Campaigners have fought for years to change the law regarding positions of trust so that sports coaches are treated in the same way as teachers and so that children in their care are protected from abuse. The government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill closes this gap in the law and, whilst I am against the Bill and its attempts to silence peaceful protest, this is one section of it that I fully support and I would welcome its inclusion in future bills.