Football continues to attract abusers, says players’ union boss

It is natural that the power dynamic between coaches and young players will continue to draw abusers to football, the head of the world players’ union has said.

The full extent of the problem in the English game between 1970 and 2005 was laid bare in the Sheldon report published last week, while the BBC launches its new documentary series ‘Football’s Darkest Secret’ on the abuse scandal on Monday night.

However, FIFPRO, the body which represents male and female professional players across the globe, is currently working with survivors in ongoing cases and its general secretary, Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, fears the structures still exist within football and other sports for abuse to continue.

“These people are the gatekeepers to the dreams of these children and they have a certain degree of power and authority over these children,” he told the PA news agency.

“It would be natural for that structure to draw abusers into football.

“We have to assume that this is widespread and the systems to combat it and help the survivors are not yet there.

“Our fears are mainly around a couple of cases that are publicly known – around Afghanistan and Haiti where we, amongst others, helped the survivors, and we’re working on a few other cases that are not public yet.”

The cases Baer-Hoffmann mentioned in Afghanistan and Haiti centred around abuse by national association officials against female players, some of whom were minors.

“The reporting systems are very much still thought of from the perspective of the institution, not the perspective of the victim,” Baer-Hoffmann added.

“What we have noticed is that it is a huge problem for those who come forward, who often cannot necessarily articulate what kind of a crime it was, it is often at enormous risk that they would put themselves forward.

“We were talking about two countries, in Haiti and Afghanistan, where the rule of law is maybe an aspiration but it’s definitely not reality.”