by Tony Attwood
Untold recently ran the series: The biggest scandal in football – the first part of the three part review is here with links to the other two parts at the end.
The scandal is that there is no one single body looking after the well-being of children who are taken on by the clubs. I find this hardly credible, given the level of abuse that we have seen children suffer at the hands of club employees, with everyone turning to look the other way until one individual was brave enough to stand up and admit what had happened to him.
So the notion of having an independent body in charge of professional football – a body that could oversee the way in which clubs behave at all levels, is vital.
And would you believe it, people like Steve Parrish of Crystal Palace, Angus Kinnear of Leeds United, and Karen Brady of West Ham have all particularly objected to the idea.
“Wow, that’s some power, said Steve Parrish, “Sounds more like something from North Korea.” No it doesn’t Mr Parrish. You are just being stupid. It is part of a reform of a game that is mired in corruption and appalling, disgraceful behaviour, and an endless turning of a blind eye.
He wrote in his programme notes for Leeds’ game against Crystal Palace: “Football is a private sector business and has flourished that way. Enforcing upon football a philosophy akin to Maoist collective agriculturalism (which students of ‘The Great Leap Forward’ will know culminated in the greatest famine in history) will not make the English game fairer, it will kill the competition which is its very lifeblood.”
No, football is a business which has seen child abuse flourish, and then refused to kick it out. Millions died of starvation during the Chinese Great Leap Forward, which was an appalling disaster because of virtually no serious oversight. Child abuse flourished in English professional football because of virtually no serious oversight.
The fact that people like Kinnear constantly divert the discussion into the narrow area of a redistribution of funds is a deliberate ploy. For funding is only part of the issue of what is wrong with football; it is the total lack of proper governance and control across the whole of football that is wrong. And it needs to be there because so many children, and their parents, see football as a great area of work to be involved in.
What they don’t see is how the clubs treat the children, allowing them to become injured through overtraining on the wrong sort of surfaces for example. And when someone complains that their child has been injured for life, because there is no regulator, everyone turns their back, and the parents have no redress.
So when those who oppose the oversight of a single organisation state that “clubs who excel in recruitment, player development or commercial enterprise will be punished, while less capable ownership will be rewarded for incompetence” as the Leeds chief has done, what they are standing up for is the freedom of clubs to treat young people badly, with no oversight.
Now of course I am not so stupid as to be accusing any individual club of abusing children through overtraining on poor surfaces, although I have come across evidence to this effect. I am simply pointing out that without any form of oversight of the whole of professional football, we have no way of controlling this, if it is happening. So we need a regulator.
Basically what I am saying is that while the argument about the review of football and the notion of setting up an independent regulator is focused on increased supporter consultation, heritage shares, the women’s game, improving equality and diversity etc, there is another factor that no one is mentioning.
The simple fact that no one has the oversight of the way clubs treat children.
Of course, such a requirement can easily be lost among the insane ramblings of people who think that a regulator means North Korea or Maoism – ramblings that are crazy enough for me to begin to believe that compulsory re-education of club owners might not be a bad idea after all.
And of course when Kick It Out accuses beIN Sports of amplifying homophobia yes I think they are right – so what are the clubs doing selling their broadcast rights to beIN Sports?
And when Mohamed Aboutrika starts urging Muslim players to boycott the Premier League’s Rainbow Laces campaign, because it supports homosexuality, then I wish the media would give more coverage to that and consider what criminal charges can be brought against Mr Aboutrika.
But beyond all this, the question is simple: who is there, who is not deeply entrenched within the world of football or politics, who can stand up for the rights of children not to be abused by over training, the wrong sort of training, training on the wrong surfaces etc? It is a practice that continues because the clubs know that although a large number of youngsters will be injured for life, a few will survive and these will become valuable players who can be sold.
That is modern slavery, and that is what needs to be sorted out, and the media’s refusal even to consider this, is an absolute disgrace and implicates the media in this appalling behaviour.
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