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Why are the scandals involving football so often removed from most of the media?

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.

7 comments to Why are the scandals involving football so often removed from most of the media?

  • TomP

    @Tony, as much as I want justice to always be done, I feel speculating on the guilt or otherwise of a person suspected of child abuse in the absence of a comprehensive investigation is in itself injustice. For example if I accused you of child molestation and the whole media- BBC,CNN and all the rest started speculating on it, even if in 3months time the judge rules that you were innocent, your reputation would already have been totally destroyed. That will now be injustice to you.
    In my humble opinion, in the absence of conclusive evidence following proper investigation, I think the press has a responsibility to keep the story low key. If people are found to have done wrong after this investigation then they can go ahead and run the entire story

  • Mikey

    @ TomP

    Barry Bennell was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison. I’d say that was pretty “conclusive”!

    As far as I can see, Tony has named no other person.

  • GoingGoingGooner

    @TomP In general, I don’t have a huge problem with your point of view. A person is innocent until proven guilty; over-publicity of allegations can ruin an innocent person’s life. However, I don’t get the impression that that was Tony’s point. It is one thing to publish only facts and to be conservative in how you present them. It is another thing to deliberately under-publicize the crimes especially when less heinous crimes from the non-football world DO get a lot more publicity. And, the reporting is no longer in the football pages as if you can somehow separate what was done from the club and the sport without which there would have been no ongoing contact between the perpetrator and the victims. By not keeping the reality of the crimes visible, it is easier to sweep them under the rug. In addition, I believe that Tony is trying to assert that there are other major systemic problems that are of questionable legality with English and World football that get the same treatment.

  • Gord

    OT: Statistics

    Part of the problem with prosecuting cases like the ones Tony refers to here, is lack of quality evidence. Analyzing the EPL also has this same problem.

    Some people claim that you can prove anything with statistics. I have seen problems with how statistics is used, but statistics provides some very real insights into systems. Statistical mechanics can show how the average kinetic energy of molecules in a system _IS_ the temperature.

    NPR has an article about _statistical significance_. Apparently:

    An entire issue of the journal The American Statistician is devoted to this question, with 43 articles and a 17,500-word editorial that Lazar co-authored.

    That article has a link to the table of contents for that entire issue. I see no way to download the entire issue. I do not know if the entire issue is “Open Access”, but that journal does publish “Open Access” articles.

  • TomP

    @mikey, indeed i do not know Barry Benell, (I’m not British by the way), and I am not defending the press (whoever they are). Neither am I accusing Tony of anything. I was merely making a general statement that I believe a person is innocent until proven guilty. And sometimes when some stories receive plenty publicity, the subjects are already tried and convicted by the “courts of public opinion”. Thus I believe the press needs to show caution in reportage if they are to be fair. If you don’t have the full gist of the matter, it might be better to put off most of the reporting until the investigation is done.
    @GGG, I also recognize that under reporting has its disadvantages too. Making it easy to sweep wrongdoing under the carpet. So I guess the key is Finding the right balance. But I’d advocate as a rule(as we doctors say), ” if you can’t treat, then at least do no harm”. In other words, if by your reportage you can’t find that balance that doesn’t ruin the innocent man, then it’s better to let things be. I believe it’s the same in law…it’s better to let a 100 guilty persons off the hook when you’re not sure beyond reasonable doubt that they’re guilty, than to sentence one innocent man. The Governor of California campaigned to abolish the death penalty based on evidence that 5% of executed persons have later been found to be innocent, thus to rule out this possibility, abolish the death sentence.
    So for me, its all about BALANCE

  • Mikey

    @ TomP

    Fortunately, the law in this country agrees with you and hence the sub judice law is clear on this and newspapers are restricted in what they are able to bring to the public arena. Whilst I completely agree that a person should be innocent until proven guilty. Your claim, ” And sometimes when some stories receive plenty publicity, the subjects are already tried and convicted by the “courts of public opinion”, is, however, completly redundant in terms of the English Courts. As GGG suggests, Tony’s article however is about an organisation in which unnamed individuals may be potentially guilty of a serious crime but are given an almost free ride by the media who are far more concerned with fictitious click-bait articles as they don’t want to disrupt the gravy train on which they are a major passenger.

    I also concur on the assertion about balance!

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