FA and Premier League urged to help tackle gender-based violence | Violence against women and girls
Britain’s most powerful footballing bodies are being called on to follow the US lead in tackling gender-based violence, including allowing clubs to suspend players suspected of abusive behavior without pay.
In a letter seen by the Guardian, the CEOs of the Football Association and the Premier League were urged to decide “which side they are on when it comes to violence against women and girls“.
The letter was sent by feminist group Level Up, the End Violence Against Women Coalition and the Three Hijabis, who launched an anti-racism campaign last year after black England players were subjected to a torrent of abuse after the Euro 2020 final.
It outlines demands, including following the example of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the NFL, where players suspected of domestic violence, sexual violence or child abuse can be suspended without pay.
It also calls for mandatory training for staff at all levels on gender-based violence, a charter outlining minimum standards, clear policies on sexual misconduct, including disciplinary procedures, and prevention programs in academies.
“Football has been in the headlines this week for all the wrong reasons. It is clear that our beautiful game has a nasty setback when it comes to violence against women,” the letter read. “It is time for the FA and the Premier League to confront a culture of gender-based violence.”
Scottish club Raith Rovers made a U-turn on Thursday after days of growing anger over their signing of David Goodwillie, who was found to be a rapist in a civil case in 2017.
This comes amid allegations against Premier League players including Mason Greenwood and Benjamin Mendy. Greenwood, a Manchester United striker, was released on bail on Wednesday after he was arrested on suspicion of rape, assault and death threats. Separately, Manchester City defender Mendy is charged with nine offenses, including rape and attempted rape, involving six alleged victims.
“It’s not about individual clubs or players, it’s about the whole game, and the Premier League and the FA [Football Association] need to lead from the top,” said Janey Starling, co-director of Level Up, which this week launched a petition calling for action.
“It’s a huge opportunity. If the Premier League can implement a gender-based violence policy and if professional football in the UK takes a stand on this, it will have a huge impact on the rest of society. I sincerely believe that they could have more influence than the government,” she said.
Andrea Simon, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said American football and baseball have shown sports governing bodies can be more proactive. “We have seen the impact of campaigns to exclude racism from football in shaping the attitudes and behaviors of fans. Now is the time for the sport to address its issue of violence against women,” said she declared.
In 2018, former Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell was suspended for 40 games without pay for violating MLB’s policy on domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. although he did not face criminal charges after his ex-wife detailed the physical, mental and emotional abuse. Since the policy was implemented in 2015, 14 players have been suspended for violating it, with suspensions ranging from 15 to 162 games. Five were placed on paid administrative leave.
Shaista Aziz, football fan and anti-racism campaigner, who along with Amna Abdullatif and Huda Jawad formed the Three Hijabis, said football was part of ‘the UK’s DNA’ and should seize the moment . “For football, washing your hands and turning a blind eye to misogyny and all forms of oppression and violence is simply not acceptable,” she said.
In a statement, the FA said it condemned violence and bias, including misogyny, and encouraged victims or witnesses of abuse to come forward to the police. He said he had an equality policy, that each club had a code of conduct and that its regulatory framework allowed it to take action against anyone who violated its policies or regulations.
“If incidents of this nature occur in a football environment, the FA will take the allegations very seriously and take action within its jurisdiction. Any such cases would be investigated once any criminal or statutory investigation is complete,” he said.
A Premier League spokesperson said it was developing a gender equality strategy to “address serious issues” including misogyny and violence against women, and was speaking to the Department of Interior to support work to combat violence against women.
Workshops at the academies explored healthy relationships, consent, sexual harassment and bullying, he added. “The Premier League strongly condemns any form of abuse or violence against women and girls and takes these issues very seriously,” the spokesperson said.