From this season, all Premier League players and staff will receive mandatory sexual consent training.
Until now, the topflight of English men’s football ran workshops for academy and first-team players from U14s – U23s, covering topics such as: sexual relationships, seeking consent, and understanding sexual harassment and bullying. Yet such training was never – at any point – mandatory for all senior professionals.
But amid mounting pressure from fans and campaigners in light of several alleged sexual assault cases in recent years, the Football Association and the league made the decision to roll out existing workshops to all teams’ personnel from 2022/2023.
There has even been discussion about introducing similar plans lower down the footballing pyramid in an attempt to combat gender discrimination from all areas of the game.
Those who fail to introduce the mandatory training – set to be delivered face-to-face by safeguarding professionals – will face disciplinary action.
To this date, there has been no movement from clubs or governing bodies to suspend players arrested on suspicion of rape, something Shaista Aziz, co-director of the Three Hijabis, echoed to The Telegraph earlier this week: “It is inconsistent and inconceivable that, in 2022, you can have a high-profile footballer accused of these very serious crimes and his employer says: ‘It’s OK, he can carry on going to work.’ It’s outrageous, and it completely goes against the grain of our open letter.”
The open letter Aziz is referring to, is one that was curated by Three Hijabis, End Violence Against Women and Level Up, organisations all working towards eradicating gender-based violence in sport and wider society.
The FA have yet to speak or meet with any of the three organisations, yet released a statement in response to Aziz’s comments made in the national publication: “The FA strongly condemns violence and prejudice of any kind, including misogyny, and encourages anyone who has been the subject of, or witness to, this type of behaviour to report it to the Police and the relevant authorities so that it can be investigated.
“The FA will take the allegations extremely seriously and will take action within its jurisdiction. Any such case would be investigated once any criminal or statutory investigation is concluded.”
Although this is a much welcomed step – and one that is sadly very much needed – there is still more to be done to ensure girls and women feel seen, heard and above all else, safe in football.
Education is power, but until those who control the game can be held accountable for their actions – or more so, lack of them – we will not see long-lasting or far-reaching change.