Manchester United Football Club’s decision not to keep Mason Greenwood following allegations including attempted rape and assault is “a relief for many survivors of domestic and sexual abuse”, says Women’s Aid.
The footballer, who has also played for England, was arrested in January 2022 after material was published online. Details of the alleged abuse are covered by the BBC in this article (trigger warning).
He was then charged in October 2022 with one count of attempted rape, one count of controlling and coercive behaviour, and one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
These charges were dropped in February 2022 due to “a combination of the withdrawal of key witnesses and new material that came to light”.
Manchester United subsequently launched an internal investigation to determine whether to allow Greenwood to reintegrate with the squad, or that he should leave.
While the club, upon the conclusion of its investigation this week, said Greenwood “did not commit the offences in respect of which he was originally charged”, they nonetheless decided he would not resume his career at the club after much deliberation and a reported U-turn.
The case is one of the most high-profile of its kind in recent years. Its handling has, therefore, been very much within the public eye. Recognising this, a Women’s Aid spokeswoman said:
“Football is loved by so many people worldwide, and players are often idolised by fans, so the way that alleged domestic abuse cases are treated in clubs has a huge impact on public understanding about what is accepted and tolerated in society.
We have heard firsthand the impact this case and the related materials shared on social media have had on survivors of abuse.”
The domestic abuse charity emphasised the importance of employers – including football clubs – take all factors into account, including those that may not be within the remit of the criminal justice system:
“With many survivors never contacting the police to report abuse in the first place, and the majority of domestic and sexual abuse cases not resulting in a criminal conviction, it is vital that clubs – like all employers – have an approach that is wider than the criminal justice system, and which deals with the reality of the scale of the issue.
This needs to involve addressing the attitudes that underpin domestic and sexual abuse, and working with players from a young age to make it clear that clubs stand against sexism and misogyny. This is an issue that reaches far wider than football, with misogynistic content widely available on social media, so it is important to recognise how widespread harmful attitudes are and address this.
We reached out to Manchester United last week in light of the statement made on Wednesday, and have since had conversations with the club. Our approach at Women’s Aid remains the same – we want to work collaboratively with football clubs and organisations to increase understanding and awareness of domestic abuse, as part of our ongoing football campaign.”