By Tony Attwood
I have written many times before about the child sex abuse scandals in English football, and my dismay at the way that the media has been handling them. If you want a quick re-run there is an article at https://untold-arsenal.com/archives/61818 – there have been a fair number since.
Football doesn’t want to know about this, and seemingly nor does most of the media, for the simple reason that it is not good publicity. It doesn’t elicit excitement or arguments between fans, it doesn’t involve speculation about transfers. It doesn’t get more people to go to football matches. Instead it shows that at least one person routinely sexually abused children, and seemingly, the club which employed him covered the whole affair up.
But at least one paper – the Guardian – has not given up on this story and they are continuing to cover it. It is the story of Barry Bennell who worked for Crewe Alexandra, and abused children for years. The club claims that they knew nothing about this and that all the horrific things that took place, did so beyond the bounds of the club, which cannot be held responsible for allowing it to continue.
But now it seems that there is evidence that Bennell claimed £5 per boy in fees from the club to house the boys he abused in his own home. Thus the club had every reason to know that under age boys were staying with Bennell, and a clear duty of care to ensure that everything was in order.
What’s more the claim for expenses from the club was presented to the club on Crewe Alexandra’s headed paper, and was, so it seems, presented to the club’s board. If that is so the club is presumably guilty of a massive cover up – although of course I can make no such allegation – I am just relaying what is in the paper.
The issue was also highlighted in a Channel 4 documentary, Football’s Wall of Silence, after Bennell was convicted last year of 50 specimen charges relating to boys, aged eight to 14.
Apparently Crewe are defending themselves saying that it would be “quite impossible” to have a fair trial relating to events from the 1980s and 1990s.
The Guardian has much more on this, and my intention is not to replicate all that. And of course there is nothing Untold can do by way of independent research.
But what does strike me as shameful is the way in which the whole Crewe situation has been removed from football reporting. To me it is just part of the process of keeping all uncomfortable stories out of the way. Yet there are so many uncomfortable stories surrounding football that really, the way football is run and has been run ought to be the top story of the day, not an appendage.
The scandals range from issues surrounding the FA’s running of its women’s team to the bid for the world cup, the Fifa corruption cases through to the secrecy of PGMO, the way tax payers’ money is used to keep the FA afloat while it continues to support Fifa, and on and on and on, the shameful lack of fully qualified coaches in England – we’ve covered most of these time and time again. And of course many others.
To my mind (and of course this is just my thought) football reporting should constantly be about exposing corruption and mismanagement. But no, transfer rumours are what we get most of the time.
Maybe that is what people want to read, but even so, I do think some of the media outlets could try a little harder to cover the background as well.