In the space of a week, Chelsea Football Club has demonstrated both all that is wrong with modern football and the immense power the sport has to be an instigator for unity.
Their players, often seen as the pantomime villains of the Premier League, oozed class both in their victory over Manchester City and in their tributes to the lives lost in the Chapecoense plane crash. Indeed, David Luiz even passed up the opportunity to criticise Sergio Agüero for his horrific tackle after the game, opting instead to discuss the tragedy.
However, while the Chelsea players did their best to protect the integrity of their football club, allegations from former striker Gary Johnson suggest that some involved in the business are doing their utmost to tarnish it.
Johnson told The Daily Mirror that he was sexually assaulted hundreds of times during his youth by former chief scout Eddie Heath. Shockingly, he accused Chelsea of paying him £50,000 last year to keep the incidents secret, and of being reluctant to believe his story.
His comments suggest a lack of awareness from the club of the anxiety that prevents many victims of sexual abuse from speaking out.
Furthermore, reports suggest that this is an issue goes far beyond just Chelsea. As of Saturday, 55 clubs had reportedly been implicated in the sex abuse scandal that continues to rock British football.
While incidents such as Johnson’s may date back decades, it is time for football clubs across the globe to commit to preventing more from happening.
As a league with tremendous marketing power, the Premier League should lead the way.
Clubs in South Africa paid their respects to victims of the Chapecoense disaster over the weekend, but their players did not receive half the attention that Chelsea’s superstars did.
If Premier League players and backroom staff alike are educated on the sheer scale of the effects of sexual abuse, they have the potential to share a powerful message across the globe.
Jamie Vardy set the example on Good Morning Britain, labelling the scandal “disgusting” and slamming Eric Bristow, who called footballers who have spoken out “wimps”.
While such comments from individual players make a massive difference, the Premier League needs to make a systematic effort to speak up about sexual abuse the same way they have about homophobia through the Rainbow Laces camapign. Survivors of sexual abuse should be assured by their footballing heroes that they would be listened to if they found the courage to speak up.
It may not solve the world’s problems overnight, but it would at least go some way to ensuring that no perpetrator of sexual violence at any club could sleep at night knowing that their employers would protect them.