THROUGHOUT THE history of football, there have been incidents which get ignored and passed over because of the social profile and the celebrity status that have come to be acquired. This past year has been evidence of these failings, with several footballers being accused of crimes ranging from driving while intoxicated, to sexual assault.
Not only do these players receive no prosecution for their crimes, but they also face limited backlash from the media, as well as no consequences in their professional careers. Perhaps one of the more famous incidents that occurred in 2016 was when Yaya Toure, a footballer who plays for Manchester City, pleaded guilty to a drink-driving charge, but contested that he had not “intentionally consumed alcohol” on the grounds of his religion. Toure stated that he was unaware of how the alcohol got into his system, but had a very high alcohol reading of more than twice England’s legal limit. Yaya Toure did however, graciously accept the fine of £54 000 (which happens to be the highest ever drink-driving fine), but received no professional impact as a result of this conviction. At the time, this event was treated much like a joke by the mainstream media, as it was amusing due to how he seemed to be unaware how the alcohol got into his system. This is a milder case showing what footballers are able to get away with, but perhaps is an indication of the incidents which these high profile athletes have the ability to get away with.
Building up to the more serious offences, is the subject of Ched Evans, the footballer who was accused with raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in May 2011. He was originally found guilty in 2012 but the conviction was quashed later in the year, and he was then found not guilty when put to a retrial in October of last year. While he spent two and a half years in jail, Ched Evans returned to football after being signed to Chesterfield in June, showing no wider repercussions for his actions after being cleared. While it is still unclear whether or not he is truly guilty for this action, his statements after his arrest stating how he “could have had any girl” out that night represents his sense of entitlement. He later took back this statement.
This trial caused further outrage at the time when the trial allowed the complainants sexual history to be brought to life throughout the trial. The accuser was asked intimate questions about her sexual history which aren’t normally allowed in trial, but was apparently appropriate in these circumstances because of the similarities between the sexual encounters. I strongly disagree with this method of cross-examination, utilising an individual’s previous sexual partners against them, whether the judge believes they are relevant to the trial or not it is a violation of their privacy, whether the complainant is male or female. Ched Evans’ statement after being cleared showed no sense of remorse or apology for whatever happened that night between him and his victim, presenting the amount that they can get away with.
The main reason that I decided to broach this taboo subject is because of the most recent events in the news between Scottish footballers David Robertson and David Goodwillie. They were accused of raping Denise Clair and ordered to pay a fine of £100 000 but faced no criminal trial, leaving Clair “devastated” at the decision not to prosecute. Not only this, but Robertson continues to play for Cowdenbeath while Goodwillie is currently not being selected to play for Plymouth Argyle.
Despite the overwhelming evidence against them and the judge even ruling them guilty and that Clair could not have consented, the men still were not prosecuted for their actions. These men were not even of an extremely high profile but received few consequences for their actions and these events were barely covered by the mainstream media.
The infuriating lack of repercussions for these men continues on, while the women who were abused remain laboured by the events. There are wider implications of all these stories however, in that it could lead to a widespread phenomenon in which women (or men) do not report their sexual assaults to the police, a number that is already horrifically low, because they feel like their abusers will be able to get away with it without the slightest blemish on their personal records. The consequences for society are too great, as we live in a world which is already not doing enough to support people who are victims of sexual assault. Therefore, I believe that these people should be treated the same as any other civilian, and not be given special treatment because they’re rich or high profile celebrities.