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By Tony Attwood
If you are a long term reader of Untold Arsenal you will know that for many a long year we have been complaining about the way in which football clubs treat children.
And there is of course an obligation for clubs to treat children properly but we all know this has not happened in the past.
Indeed, the child sexual abuse in football cases began in November 2016 when former professional footballers began to talk to the media about the way in which, as children, they were abused by coaches and scouts. Examples were gathered across a 30 year period, and everyone was duly horrified.
Since then Untold has been arguing that there is more that is wrong with the way some football clubs treat children and teenagers. The general feeling I pick up is that some clubs can play on the parental aspirations, and push the children harder and harder, casting aside those who are injured along the way.
Instead, the prospect of glory, fame and wealth are dangled in front of the parents who then overlook what the club is actually doing. Young players who are injured through overtraining or training are cast aside; there are plenty more where they came from.
The media don’t think the story is horrible enough or sexy enough to make it worth their while in publishing any details, and besides I suspect (but again have no evidence) that many clubs make it clear to the media that if an outlet should start suggesting that children are being mistreated through over training while not receiving the sort of medical attention they need for injuries, press passes will be withdrawn.
Now the issue of press passes has of late become of interest once more after the story broke in the Press Gazette (“fighting for the future of quality news media”) about a local newspaper in Tottenham that was denied a press pass by Tottenham Hotspur. Instead, the paper has been told it has to apply on a game-by-game basis. The first application made in this way was turned down.
The point here is that this is a local newspaper trying to cover its local team, but also behind this (and this is of course just my speculation) I think the clubs really don’t want smaller publications and blogs asking the questions that the big publishers have agreed never to touch.
Press Gazette further reports that when the journalist “who was hired under the Government’s Kickstart Scheme which creates new jobs for 16 to 24-year-olds”, put in a request to Tottenham he was told that because the paper “had not previously covered a certain number of games it would be denied – even though the paper had never had a football reporter before.”
There is also something rather suspicious about a club like Tottenham with a newly built ground, desperately anxious for media coverage not having built a press box big enough to incorporate its local community newspaper as well as the big media players. In fact Tottenham admitted that they give priority to “established media outlets such as the national papers.”
So now what does this have to do with the banner shown in the picture above? The answer is simple and fairly obvious. As Untold has often said, there are multiple stories that the media won’t cover about football because the clubs don’t see them as being in their interest or the interest of the game – and the journalists kowtow to these demands. Two utterly different examples come to mind at once – the way that referees vary so dramatically in terms of the number of home or away wins they oversee, and the way the clubs treat their young players (as revealed in the banner above outside the Stoke City ground).
Of course I don’t have personal evidence on this score, but if it were to be revealed that some clubs are still mistreating their young players by not giving them the correct medical treatment when injured (on the grounds that “there are plenty more where they came from”) then football does indeed have a second deep-rooted problem, different from the child sex abuse scandal, but still very damaging to the youngsters affected.
Now we don’t know about this in detail, no more than we knew about the child sex abuse scandals, until finally someone stood up and shouted. And that I guess is what the individual/s who put up the banner seen above are saying. Just as clubs didn’t protect young players from sex abuse, so they might also not be looking after them properly when they get injured.
Now we know that Liverpool FC were banned from signing academy players and fined £100,000 for tapping up a schoolboy from Stoke. The suspicion was that there were other cases like this, but everything then went quiet. Now we have another situation being highlighted in which a young player was allegedly mistreated by a club and then abandoned. Plus the case of a major club refusing to allow a community newspaper to report from within its ground.
It really doesn’t make good reading, and I suspect that there is a lot more to come on this front. The media and the clubs want our silence, and for the most part they get it. But not always.
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