KCL Men’s football captain gives his view on the game’s recent sexual abuse revelations

“I can’t even begin to imagine the extent to which this has impacted the lives of those affected”

Over the last few weeks, revelations of sexual abuse of former footballers from youth coaches in academy set-ups have been brought forward by brave individuals who have been affected.

The cases have carried with them harrowing tales of disgusting acts, as well as the impacts they have had on the victims opening up on their past for the very first time, shedding light on a problem that has to be addressed within not just football, but sport in general.

To get an insight into the reaction from a current player who has had experiences of the academy and youth system in the modern game, the Tab has spoken exclusively with KCL’s 1st XI football captain Sam Talbot about his initial reactions, and what this means for the future of grassroots football.

Firstly, what is your gut reaction to what has been uncovered in the footballing world regarding sexual abuse in recent weeks?

I’m appalled by the reports of abuse in the football community. I can’t even begin to imagine the extent to which this has impacted the lives of those affected. It’s also worrying to think that football clubs might have been trying to prevent allegations leaking to the press.

During your time in academy set-ups and youth teams, were you ever aware that something like this could ever happen?

During my time at academies, I never once felt at risk of something like this occurring to me, or at the set ups I’ve been involved with. The media has greatly increased the awareness of abuse, but growing up I don’t think I would have actually considered the fact it could happen in the set-ups I played for.

Did you feel as if there was a support system or people you could go to for advice if you ever felt there was a problem of this nature in your side as a kid?

The clubs would have had welfare officers, although I’m not sure many of the team were fully aware of who they were at the time. I’d like to believe that if any of us had felt there was a problem of this nature, then members of staff would have taken the allegations extremely seriously and supported anyone who needed it.

However, I suppose one of the saddening issues with this abuse, is having the ability to speak out about it to someone in the first place.

What actions do you think youth sides, and perhaps even university sides, in all sports need to take in order to make sure this never happens again?

It’s very difficult to suggest ways in which youth sides could be changed to prevent this from happening, having no experience of abuse happening at any of the set-ups I’ve been involved with. I find it disgusting to hear that clubs may have signed legal agreements with victims to force their silence on allegations of abuse.

Perhaps to prevent situations like this, an external body could be set up, providing a confidential way to report abuse, a licence for full investigations, and a support network for those effected. Awareness of this body would have to be made clear for all players.

What does this mean for grassroots football? Can it ever be the same?

I feel that the awareness of abuse has been greatly increased. Following the large scale media attention on sexual abuse in the last few years, particularly after the Jimmy Savile revelations, and now these football allegations, parents will become more cautious regarding their children’s safety. The issue is with placing trust in a coach or staff member.

Sadly this may become more challenging, but it is a fundamental part of developing as a football player.