The biggest scandal in football: who is checking on how clubs behave? Part two.

This continues from The biggest scandal to hit the English game is ongoing, and no one will speak

In my earlier piece, I argued that it is possible that there is a scandal in English football – different completely from the sex abuse scandal of recent years, but nevertheless a huge scandal, that no one is reporting.  A scandal in which young players are being exposed to very dangerous methods of training, which can leave some of the young players injured for life, so they have no chance of playing football again.

The clubs, I have suggested, can do this, because a small number of players will come through the experience and survive and can be sold on to the bigger clubs.  And meanwhile the cost to the little clubs are taking lots of youngsters on in this way is very small.

From the evidence I have seen, I think this is happening – although I want to make it clear I can’t lay my hands on all the documentation needed to prosecute clubs for serious misbehaviour toward young players.   But that isn’t my real point.  For to take my point all you have to do is agree that yes it could happen, and no one is likely to stop it. 

A Championship club, or a League One or Two club or a Conference club, could take on young players and train them in a way that they know could well result in the youngsters picking up injuries that will ruin their careers.

And let’s just accept that supposition for a moment.  The big question is…

In such a case who is there to investigate malpractice by a football club, who is completely independent, and cannot be influenced by the football community in any way? 

I am suggesting there is no one.

So let’s think this through.

Imagine that just as in the child sex abuse cases, this abuse in terms of irresponsible training isn’t happening everywhere, but is happening in a number of places – and there are quite a few people in the football community who have at least heard the stories.  What then?

Obviously, there is a wall of silence and if anyone ever does ask, the club in question denies any wrongdoing.

OK says the parent, let’s have a look at the medical records.    The club says it no longer has the medical records once the youngster has left the club, perhaps citing some imaginary rule or other that says medical records are only kept for a year before being destroyed “in order to protect the privacy of the individual”.

(It is irrelevant if this rule exists or not, the club will just say that, and that’s the end.  At worst it gets fined £100 for not keeping proper records).

And so the parent might turn to another club to seek their advice, and then find, worryingly, that no one will talk.  A wall of silence as no club will ever dish the dirt on another club because… well, because every club has something it probably doesn’t want exposed, lurking in the laundry cupboard.

Now, let’s pause for a second and consider this.  In 2019 before the pandemic started, and so at a time when clubs were still getting their normal income from gate money and from TV, the Daily Mail ran the headline “Championship clubs made combined operating loss of more than £510m last year as staggering cost of Premier League dream is revealed”

So the 22 clubs in the Championship lost half a billion pounds IN ONE SEASON.

That puts most of them in dire straits.  Not just a club like Derby which we now know is a total financial basket case, but almost all of them.  And do you think that at a time like that, it is likely that all of them are abiding by the highest protocols when it comes to training players?  Especially if there is no authority that is actually checking up on them?

And that half a billion pounds lost was IN ONE SEASON.   Add a few more seasons, throw in the occasional pandemic and the odd very rich sponsor suddenly running out of cash, the occasional Chinese investor who is suddenly arrested in his homeland, the odd bank demanding its overdraft is repaid now please, the promotion that was expected but doesn’t arrive…

Suddenly, the parent who is concerned about the way his son or daughter has been trained is not dealing with a stable pillar of the local community, a respected organisation that has been in the town for 100 years, but an organisation teetering on the brink.

And teetering on the brink in full vision of the football world, which is doing nothing.

The series continues….

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