British Sports Scandals Show Abuse Is Being Challenged
National coaches in several British sports, from bobsleigh to canoeing, are "now being investigated for bullying, sexual assault and racism," according to Simon Kuper of the FINANCIAL TIMES. This follows last year’s "revelations of widespread child sexual abuse" in the academies of professional football clubs. Roger Pielke Jr., an expert on sports governance at the University of Colorado, said, “It’s not just in the U.K. The issues are endemic across sports.” What is "new is that abuse by coaches is increasingly being challenged." A "power imbalance" between coach and athlete is "almost inevitable," said Pielke. Most coaches are middle-aged white men (even in women’s football), "whereas many athletes are young, female and non-white." Athletes "usually need a coach’s goodwill to succeed." Sporting careers are "highly competitive," especially in smaller British sports, where funding can depend on winning Olympic Medals. The set-up "encourages abuse of power." Sports' governing bodies have "so far shown little awareness of these issues," said Jayne Caudwell, a sports expert at Bournemouth University. She said, "Sport has been ruled for so long by white men who just see the sports person as a performer. There's a lack of diversity at that level, so there's a lack of understanding of different groups. There's been horrible abuse." Caudwell added that the media was "now focusing more on these issues." There has been more coverage of women's football since the 2015 World Cup, and "more coverage of sexual abuse in sport since the scandal in British football academies." Media and official inquiries have "recently revealed various types of coaching misbehaviour in several British sports" (FT, 10/20).