Manchester United did not deliver mandatory sexual consent training to its first team during the 2022/23 season, even as the club planned to keep the striker Mason Greenwood despite sexual assault charges brought against him last year.
Last August, all 20 clubs in the English Premier League were ordered to give players and staff mandatory sexual consent training following high-profile police investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct against a number of players.
Those investigations included one into Greenwood, who was charged in October 2022 with attempted rape, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and controlling and coercive behaviour. All charges were dropped in February 2023.
On Monday, Manchester United announced Greenwood would not be returning to the club after public backlash following an article in The Athletic, which reported that United’s chief executive had outlined to club leadership a plan for Greenwood to return.
Earlier this month Tortoise reported that only half the Premier League clubs were prepared to confirm they had carried out the mandatory sexual consent training.
Of the 20 clubs contacted, ten responded to confirm they had carried out the training, most with little or no detail.
Contacted again after Greenwood’s departure from the club, Manchester United questioned whether the consent training was mandatory for the 2022/23 season. It said it had “a longstanding programme of sexual consent training for all our Academy players” – which Greenwood would have attended – and that this would now be mandatory for the first team too this season.
The Premier League said it did not comment on individual clubs but confirmed today that the training was in fact mandatory for the 2022/23 season.
The League said: “The Safeguarding and Healthy Relationships training for first team/professional players was included within the League’s Safeguarding Standards for Season 2022/23. Premier League Rules require Clubs to ensure their policies and procedures for the safeguarding of children and adults at risk meet the League’s Safeguarding Standards.”
Sexual consent training is supposed to cover sexual relationships, seeking consent and understanding sexual harassment and bullying. The training is provided through third parties who partner with the League, which clubs can supplement with additional providers.
Until last year, the League ran workshops for academy and first-team players from under-14s to under-23s, but the training was not mandatory for senior professionals.
The mandatory training policy was introduced following a meeting in June 2022 between the Premier League and the campaign groups End Violence Against Women Coalition, the Three Hijabis and Level Up.
Since August 2022:
- Manchester City defender Benjamin Mendy stood trial for rape and attempted rape. He was found not guilty last month and has subsequently moved to French side Lorient.
- An unnamed Premier League player, first arrested in July 2022 over a rape allegation made by a woman in her 20s, has had his bail extended to a date this month.
Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, told Tortoise the Premier League has not been “open or transparent” about how the mandatory training on sexual consent that the coalition campaigned for was being delivered.
“This is simply not acceptable given the seriousness of sexual violence and the way high-profile cases involving footballers can influence wider cultural attitudes to this abuse, as perpetrators are seen to evade meaningful consequences and victim-blaming narratives are reinforced in the media,” Simon said.
“This training is a positive first step in preventing violence against women and girls, but it is crucial that it is developed with specialist women’s organisations and is not just a tick box exercise.”
Shaista Aziz, co-director of Three Hijabis, said: “There has been a disappointing lack of transparency in the process so far and a lack of accountability and governance over how multi-billion pound corporate global businesses – that are Premier League clubs – are moving forward on tackling the serious issue of gender-based violence.
“We know that the Premier League and footballing institutions can do a lot better and urge all to work collectively to tackle violence against women and girls urgently at all levels.”
Photograph Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images