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The sexual exploitation of young footballers shows we have really deep and serious problems throughout England

By Tony Attwood

If you don’t live in the UK there is a chance you might not be aware of the issue that is starting to engulf English football.  If you do live in the UK, then I imagine you can’t but know – but I hope you will allow me a moment to recap.

In recent years the UK has been swamped with details of a huge number of child sexual exploitation cases.  They range from the cases of a single man such as Jimmy Saville, the BBC personality, to vast gangs of men in Rotherham in South Yorkshire where child exploitation existed on a massive scale for years.   In the Young case it then emerged that the exploitation of young people within the music business in general and within the BBC in particular, among its mostly freelance employees, was widespread.  In different cases Jonathan King and the pop singer Paul Gadd better known as Gary Glitter, plus the entertainer Rolf Harris and many more were all convicted of sexual offences and imprisoned.

Those are just a few examples, and they are made even more horrific and distressing by the fact that they generally seem to reveal that huge numbers of people knew what was going on, and yet did nothing.  Perhaps the worst example was the fact that even after much of the information was made public in Rotherham, a year or so later the local council, under whose noses the whole appalling affair had been continuing, had still done nothing.  The same people who had supposedly been running the area were still debating what they might do.   The government then wound the council up as unfit for purpose.

There are multiple other examples across the UK, and I won’t take up your time recounting these – they are all a matter of public record.

But I do write about it today because we now have evidence growing daily of sexual exploitation of young men in football.

The awareness of this case started after two former players at Crewe Alexandra spoke of the abuse they suffered at the hands of the serial paedophile Barry Bennell while with the club in the 1980s.

Bennell was sentenced to nine years in prison in 1998 after admitting 23 specimen charges of sexual offences against six boys aged nine to 15, with another 22 offences left on file. He previously served a four-year sentence in Florida for offences against a boy and was jailed again for two years in May 2015 for molesting a 12 year-old in Macclesfield in 1980.

Subsequently more players have come forwards and a former Newcastle United player told police he had been molested by a paedophile coach.  Then two more ex-Crewe players admitted they had been abused.

And we have just been told that Manchester City has launched an investigation into links between Bennell and the club.   Meanwhile Crewe Alexandra’s most famous employee, ex-manager and director of football, Dario Gradi, denied any knowledge that his long-time colleague with whom he had worked very closely over many years had raped young players.   The number of players to have contacted Cheshire Police is now 11 but is expected to grow.

In all these cases that have been revealed one thing seems to be consistent: that large numbers of people knew about what was going on, but did nothing thus allowing the predators to continue.

I have no idea if what has been revealed over the years within the individual cities such as Rotherham, within the entertainment industry, and now within football, exists in other cities and other industries, but it would seem likely.  I have no idea if what we are finding out exists in other countries also; maybe it is just a British thing.  Maybe just an English thing.

But what is so utterly desperate in all this is that the one factor that seems to link everything together is the simple notion of “cover up”.

For example in the Rotherham case the cover-up included the theft of documents from a council researcher’s office, and this cover up became a major part of the government report on the case, in October 2014.  Now it seems that there really has been a determined attempt to say nothing about the Crewe Alexandra case until recently.

But then I have to think, supposing I were working in an environment in which there were occasional whispers about colleagues and their attitudes towards young people.  What would I do?

And then worse, I suddenly remembered that at the start of my working career, (which was a very long time ago) when I was trying to make my way as young writer while earning my crust by teaching in a school in London, I did indeed hear dark rumours about one male teacher in the school.  The stories lacked detail as I recall and were just gossip in the pub, and no one, that I remember had any actual facts, but yes I heard such stories.  And did nothing, not (and I really hope my memory is right here) because I didn’t want to do the right thing, but because I simply had no idea how to.

I have no ideas whether such stories were true.  I can’t remember the name of the teacher concerned, nor what he taught.   He wasn’t someone I came across in the course of my daily work in the school, I was in my early 20s and he was older, and I was only at the school for a short while, and so the memory is very vague – little more than a bit of pub chat.

But it makes me think: I guess that is how it goes.  Today, if I heard a rumour, I hope I would urge the individual to go to the police.  If I had the information, that is what I would do.   But perhaps with little hope of anything much happening, for today the headlines in the Guardian include “Met police heavily criticised over child protection failings” and “Former abuse inquiry lawyer calls for clarity on alleged sexual assault – Hugh Davies QC says inquiry leadership must explain publicly how it responded to allegations involving former lead counsel.”

In the former case the Met police – the police force that operates in London – which as the Guardian says, “prides itself on being a leader in law enforcement”, was found to be so inadequate in so many areas concerning child protection it will now face emergency measures after Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary examined a random sample of 384 child protection cases, and found that three-quarters were substandard.
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In the latter case the major enquiry going on into child sex abuse in England has already had three chairpeople resign, the most recent chair to leave is now refusing to be interviewed by MPs about her resignation, and the people running the inquiry into child abuse are now accused of failing to explain how they investigated allegations of sexual assault by a barrister on its premises.
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My heart bleeds for all the children who have been abused, and I am in total despair about the country I was born in and have lived in most of my life.

18 comments to The sexual exploitation of young footballers shows we have really deep and serious problems throughout England

  • WalterBroeckx

    Alas child abuse is everywhere. I must say that since the Dutroux case has hit my country I tend to see an improvement in the prosecution of child abusers.
    But of course what goes on deep down inside that dark world is something we will not really know. And hope to never know maybe….

  • Leon

    No surprises really, and this will continue where adults have exclusive access to young people. I have experiences of this in church choirs, cub groups, boarding school & shipboard work places.
    It’s never really impacted in me in any particular way other than me accepting it (at the time) as “normal”

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Terrible!
    This odd world we live-in comes with strange habits and doings. Paedophiles? I thought is only the underage girls they abuse. But to be abusing the underage boys too is Shocking! But are there paedophiles women? Not yet.

    Homosexuality, Lesbianism and girls Paedophiles are the odds human sexual beings we been hearing about. But boys paedophileling is a new one to me.

    There shouldn’t be sexual attraction by a man to a boy because the 2 are like-magnetic human poles that should repel each other. But if a man is sexually attracted to a girl, it is normal and understandable. Because they are unlike-human magnetic poles which naturally attracts to each other? Therefore, there shouldn’t be any natural sexual attraction between a man and a boy or a man.

    But what is causing some men to be sexually attracted to a fellow underage man, a boy? Hmmn, maybe it has something to do with genetic imbalance in a particular group of men which the human biologists are yet to figure out. The samething applies to Lesbians whose odd behaviours could be due to the same genetic imbalances in men.

    In the case of men homosexuality, it has been known through the ages that this odd practice of odd sexual intercourse between 2 men came to be at the initial stage as men who are after to get spiritual power in various fields of human endeavour, sought after this power to become successful, recognized and prominent in the area of their choice of professions. It could be to get the spiritual power to be politically successful, merchantly & momentarily successful, become academically successful and reknown, be very successful in a particular sport and be highly popular and be scientifically successful and become famous for leaving a legacy behind. e.g. Michael Faraday(discoverer of electricity), Dr. Ohms(discoverer of the Ohm’s Law), James Watt((steam engine discoverer) and etc.

  • Arthur

    horrific case in Norway

    http://theantimedia.org/pedophile-ring-politicians/

    i think the reason these cases have been hidden is because the police and politicians are involved in the rings

  • Gord

    It’s been a story in Canadian ice hockey for ages. Also a story in orphanages (run by churches), the church, schools for aboriginal children and probably other stuff.

  • Gooner S

    “in the Young case” Do you mean Saville?

  • para

    This is the ongoing culture of the Greeks who took “child sex” to a different level. They proclaimed it as normal and used “women” only for procreation.

    Today is just the continuing of that culture, and it is in very high places i learned from my research. They do cover up this practice and are trying successfully to impregnate it into todays society as normal.

    Homosexuality is the first step, soon child sex will be legal as in old Greece if they have their way.

    Has any one not noticed that 90% of media broadcasters are gay? This seems to be a requirement to get the jobs/positions and be a “celeb”.

    One thing we should all fight against, is gays being allowed to rear or adopt children. That is one of the steps of their child sex agenda.

  • Robert

    You left out the Church scandals, Tony, and those involving politicians – also the persistent rumours involving senior politicians and the police.

    Stoking fear against gays is a convenient smokescreen. It deflects attention from the perpetrators who are males in positions of power – often married apart from Catholic priests. Coaches of boys desperate to become the next Beckham fall into that category.

    I’ll bet it’s a worldwide problem on every continent. Look for males in positions of power with access to the young and vulnerable.

  • Para, that’s homophobic nonsense. To what then do you attribute heterosexual paedophilia? The sad truth is that activities that centre around children, of both genders, will attract paedophiles. Thank God that brave men, like these footballers are coming forward to speak openly and honestly about their painful histories and helping to remove the stigma and shame of the abused. We need to be robust in our moral repugnance and committed to putting the perpetrators behind bars.

  • Leon

    Samuel & Para
    Sorry to be such a troll, but:
    Wow! You’re both a bit third world aren’t you?
    This is not 21st century thinking. Come to think of it it’s hardly even 20th century.

  • omgarsenal

    Para….in actual fact very few homosexual or bisexual people are ever involved in pedophile activity as compared to the heterosexual population. Less than 1% of the LGBT community have been accused of child molesting or abuse, yet nearly 5% of the heterosexual population have been indicted for such abuse. ANY abuse is totally unacceptable but re ethere are obligatory reporting laws that govern anyone working with or volunteering with minors and they have sevconsequences for ignoring them.

    That said, there is a dreadful collaboration apparent between the authorities and government tphide all these events!

  • Gord

    omgarsenal

    As you have stated things, it is entirely possible for their to be comparable numbers of abusive heterosexual and LGBT adults. All that is required is that the fraction of LGBT as compared to heterosexual is about 20%.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Having just recently heard about the Crewe cases , I find it very appalling that those who had some inkling about it , chose to remain silent and allowed these kids to be abused .Especially those were were in authority or were in a position of power to stop it.

    I really do hope that these who were affected by it get the help they require and some measure of closure . And that the perpetrators get their just desserts.

  • Arvind

    And we have more people supporting anti-gay nonsense again on this blog. Its depressing. In 2016. Why should gay parents then proceed to have sex with children? What logic is this?

    Its awful that this happens though, I cannot even imagine how it impacts the children.

    Leon, I would request you to take back your third-world comment if you can. I come from India, which I think (despite recent growth) is still third-world. While it has large numbers of people who are idiots and foolish in their thinking, despite being educated – there certainly are many people who try and be progressive as well. How much more or less, compared to say a first-world country – I do not know.
    I get the intention behind your comment, but think it is a bit racist.

  • Leon

    Arvind
    Sorry if I’ve offended you, but my comment is in no way intended to be racist. Perhaps we could change that to stone age.
    I did not realise India was considered third world, but you would know best. My understanding of India is that it is a democracy, has a space programme and is likely to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Not third world stuff.
    But again truly sorry if you or anyone else is offended.

  • Omo r'Arsenal

    @Leon, if the 21st Century in the ‘First World’, turn humans into beings less than animals, then I am happy to be in the Third World!
    Homophobia maybe wrong, amen. But it should be the expected response to an action that illogically defies even an animal’s instinctive urge.
    If you have a right to publicly be whatever ‘abnormal sexual thing’, then someone else in the public equally has the right to be offended.

  • Leon

    Omo r’Arsenal

    What ‘abnormal sexual thing’ do you have in mind? You’ve lost me a bit there.

    By the way, I think you selectively missed my later comment where I amended “third world” to “stone age”

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