End Violence Against Children

The Global Partnership and Fund

Abuse in Sport – A Selection of Writings by Celia Brackenridge 

Ten months ago my life expectancy was nine and a half months: best not tarry then. I felt impelled to put together this collection of outputs for two main reasons: first, the media firestorm that erupted late this year when sexual abuse in men’s professional Association Football finally made the headlines and, secondly, the realisation that I had produced a fair amount of material over the years that had probably never been accessed or read! 


I had been researching sexual exploitation in sport since the mid-1980s so was unsurprised by the football revelations. But what kept them so long? There are many possible explanations for the delay, some obvious and some more nuanced. Many are posited in others’ research papers. I was frustrated at the poor quality of journalism on show and the apparent lack of willingness of most in the media to read or to bother checking the ‘facts’ that they were presenting. Many distortions of the truth were published, some subsequently repeated by those too lazy to do their own homework. At the time the football story broke I was simply too ill to engage with the many journalists clamouring for interviews; however, I sent each of them a short reading list in the hope that they might take a step back and produce more informed accounts in the future. I realised, however, that whilst almost all of my work had already been published and was therefore available in the public domain, what was missing from view was a number of unpublished or difficult-to-access pieces that might also have something to offer researchers, journalists and general readers interested in the lineage of the issue of abuse in sport. 


My closest community of interest comprises members of BIRNAW, the Brunel International Network for Athlete Welfare. I have deliberately included several pieces here that were rejected by reviewers, editors or supervisors, both to show younger BIRNAW members that not everything they write will succeed (!) but also to encourage them to keep trying in their endeavours to be published. I have also included several ‘advocacy’ pieces that show how so-called academic research can inform lobbying both to sport organisations and also to mainstream welfare and protection agencies. My view is that research and advocacy go hand-in-hand and that, whilst research subserves advocacy, advocacy will never succeed without a good evidence base. The sharp-eyed amongst you will notice that some of the early material in here was later subsumed in Spoilsports (2001). I make no apology for repetition. 


Other sources are, of course, quite widely available as the field of study has grown rapidly since my first tentative sorties in the mid-1980s. BIRNAW, in particular, now numbers more than 60 researchers and policy-makers working on athlete welfare and abuse prevention. A lengthening list of doctoral theses is also available as well as articles and papers on the subject published by both sport and non-sport journals. I hope this collection might help to show how the field of enquiry has evolved and also stimulate reflection and action by anyone seeking to understand how and why athletes have been sexually abused in sport. I hope also that the Coda may prove helpful! 


Celia Brackenridge Wigginton, UK, December 2016 


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