has fifa been adequately responding to allegations of sexual abuse in national soccer federations
Jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand, the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is set to become the most attended stand-alone women’s sporting event in history. But what fans of the sport don’t see are the challenges many women players are forced to endure.
There have been shocking reports of unfair pay, sexual harassment and an unsafe working environment. Sexual violence in sports is often the result of poor governance and an imbalance of power. In too many soccer federations, to report sexual abuse is to end your career.
The imbalance often enables perpetrators and punishes survivors. When Human Rights Watch alerted FIFA to cases of sexual abuse, it became apparent there were no survivor-centred systems to effectively probe sexual harassment or protect whistleblowers.
Need For A Survivor-Centred System
The international non-governmental organisation has documented depression, lifelong trauma, physical disabilities and suicides resulting from sexual and other abuse. Read on for key insights from HRW’s recent article calling on FIFA to show the red card to abuse.
In December 2021, FIFA recognised the need for a survivor-centred system and committed to a “global network” to fight abuse. It took 18 months, until this June, for it to release a report outlining the need to set up an “Independent Global Safe Sport Entity.”
In April, the international governing body of soccer announced it would pave the way for a dedicated entity to combat cases of abuse. But senior staff have been neglecting to take any concrete steps to set up the entity, including requesting funding that’s already available.
Using Financial Controls To Force Reforms
HRW shined the light on a few shocking facts, such as since 2018, a couple of male presidents of national soccer federations have been prohibited from the sport over serious allegations of sexual assault against women and girls on the national teams.
The NGO highlighted a well-documented pattern of systemic abuse across national bodies in nearly 20 of 211 national soccer federations. A number of top officials or coaches remain accused of sexual abuse and exploitation of young players, including children.
With FIFA contributing a minimum of $1.5 million to each national federation annually, financial controls could be utilised to introduce reforms, the NGO mentioned. In many countries, these funds instead drive corruption and the worst kinds of abuse, it added.