Over the past few years, sexism, and sexual assault by footballers has made the headlines over and over again. From Ched Evans and his controversial attempt to return to football after serving time in prison for rape, to the Leicester City players caught on camera in Thailand racially abusing three women whilst getting them to perform sex acts, it’s safe to say that the link between sex and footballers is problematic at best.
Now, Amal Fashanu, daughter of former British football player John Fashanu is seeking to investigate why so many footballers are making the front pages for all the wrong reasons in new BBC Three documentary Footballers, Sex, Money: What’s Gone Wrong?
‘I think it’s a good sign that it’s being talked about because everything that isn’t being talked about you can’t really help or fight against’ She explains to us. ‘It’s something we need to look at because if we’re considering these individuals as our role models for young kids it’s important to understand their thoughts, what’s going on and how we can help them.’
‘I personally think there’s not one thing to blame in general,’ Says Amal when I ask her why some footballers choose to break the rules when it comes to women. ‘It’s the money, it’s the power. If you have a young sportsman who’s good looking, has a great body, he’s earning a lot of money… all of this is forming this individuals' brain. Then the fans make it worse.’
Amal meets ex-footballer Dwight Yorke to shed some light on the situation. His excuses are thin; ‘You train hard, you come home, you have a power nap, you live alone. You call a mate... we go to dinner, we go back and we watch a movie, but you can only do those things for a certain period of time. You want to get something out of your system.’ He says. ‘You have these beautiful young ladies next to you and you’re feeling macho about yourself. It’s a feel-good factor. What do you tell these young guys… not to?’
To be honest, in our humble opinions here at The Debrief, yes, that's exactly what you do. As the documentary continues though, it becomes clear this is not a view others share.
There's a huge problem with how women are viewed within the footballing community. Kiss and tell story stereotypes have done little to help. One footballer tells Amal that he doesn't trust women and Danielle Mason; a glamour model-turned-club promoter speaks of footballers coming to her club, selecting women that she’d round up and bring to their table. Danielle sees the women as the problem. ‘There was one particular girl who was well known for going with the footballers,’ She tells Amal. ‘There were some wide boys that were linked to a particular footballer and I think they threatened her that if she were to sell any stories... she wouldn’t get away with it.’ When Amal blanches, Danielle laughs and says ‘Yeah, but she shouldn’t be slag then should she?’ falling neatly into the victim blaming trap.
Amal herself has her own view on women who pursue footballers. ‘It’s sad to think there are women out there that think it’s a career choice to bag a footballer’ She says. ‘It’s sad especially because I fight out against that. For me my whole thing is to be who you are. But especially have a job and be a woman your daughter will want to be and not be someone who is openly a prostitute.’ We find the statement shocking, and Amal is quick to clarify her point. ‘Helen Wood (the former prostitute who slept with Wayne Rooney who TBH is the overriding voice of reason in the documentary), explained to me that it was her job – and how can I judge someone for doing a job?’ It’s the other women, the ones who aren’t getting paid to sleep with footballers that Amal has a problem with, ‘It’s sad for the rest of us working hard and trying to be someone in this man’s world – because unfortunately that is how it still kind of it – we’re trying to survive but we have these women putting us down.’
The problem is, footballers are mollycoddled. Young players are given extraordinary amounts of money (some can make up to £30,000 a week), lots and lots of attention from the press, fans and women, and have a management team who's there to clean up after any mess they might make. The players are an expensive commodity, and are treated as such. Manager Harry Redknapp tells Amal that the first thing a manager does after an incident is try to keep it out of the papers. 'If that is the case imagine how many stories we will actually never know,' Amal wonders.
Professional organisations like the FA and PFA (Profesisonal Footballers Association) are hardly guiding beacons of light when it comes to the matter. From the FA's sexist tweet to the English womens' football team, to more serious matters like Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore’s sexist leaked emails (in them, he referred to female employees as ‘gash’, no action was taken against him), it's clear football's problem with women goes to the top. For their part, all the PFA have committed to doing is releasing an educational video to be distributed to all major clubs.
It’s clear a major look at how younger footballers are educated is needed. Amal thinks delaying the age footballers are allowed to start playing might help. ‘They wouldn’t feel so caged in a box. I understand where they’re coming from. A lot of my footballer friends, that’s how it is. It’s true, you have a great life, don’t get me wrong, but at the same time there’s also a flip side to it – you’re coming back form training you’re just playing Playstation, going to an event, that’s not really life. You do get bored, so, through this documentary I undertstand that they also wasnted to push boundaries because they feel like they’re in this box and pushing boundaries often means with women.’
For us, we don't buy being bored and rich as reasoning as to why footballers end up in problematic situations with women. It's clear that the football industry has an ingrained problem with women, one that needs to be addressed immediately, before more women get hurt. Sure there's organisations in place to protect the players, but what about the people they hurt because of the lifestyles they lead? After watching this documentary though and seeing the attitudes that prevail, it's clear that change is still a long way off.
Footballers, Sex, Money: What’s Gone Wrong? is on BBC Three on Tuesday 17th November at 10PM
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.