England Player of the Year Beth Mead said she was left “sickened” by the damning report into NWSL abuse, and warned “women need to be taken seriously” in future.
An independent investigation revealed its findings into accusations of abuse across the US women’s top flight and found issues had become “systemic”, including verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct across multiple teams.
Speaking ahead of the Lionesses’ game with the USA at Wembley Stadium on Friday night, Mead and England coach Sarina Wiegman paid tribute to the victims of the scandal, and revealed they were working on a show of solidarity with their American counterparts ahead of the game .
“When I found out I was quite sickened, it’s a worldwide problem but women need to be taken seriously,” said Mead. “I’m very proud of the victims who stood up and said it, and people need to start doing better.
“The US governing body needs to do better, worldwide we need to do better.
“We’re in contact with the American team and some of the players. We’re working on something to show our support for them. Nothing has been finalized yet but we will be doing something.”
Wiegman added: “It’s horrible, unacceptable that it’s still happening and I feel very, very sorry for all the victims.
“It’s a problem in the USA still, and now is the time to step up and stop these things from happening.”
Rapinoe on Yates report: It’s horrifying
USA forward Megan Rapinoe has described the findings of the Yates report as “horrifying”.
She says it has been difficult for the squad to relive some of their experiences following the findings, but that they have grown closer and feel united together.
“It’s horrifying,” said USA’s co-captain Rapinoe.
“It’s been difficult for the players, some of the players play in those clubs, have been coached by those coaches likely have been abused in one form or another by some of those coaches or in some of those environments.
“It can definitely be re-triggering or re-traumatizing and just to have to deal with that on such an incredible occasion here at Wembley and to participate in this game, which is so exciting, I mean the juxtaposition is just ridiculous.
“It’s nice to be here together as a team, I feel like it’s really powerful for us all to be together as a national team. It has been very difficult, I can’t even imagine [what it’s felt like] for the players most affected, or just the names that we know and probably a lot of names that we don’t know.
“In a way, it’s really sad to say this, but we are used to having to deal with one thing or another. It seems to bring us closer and definitely unify the team.
“It’s been really difficult for everyone in the entire landscape of women’s sports, no one wants to see anything like this. But hopefully this can be a moment in time that you say, ‘None of this happened again’.”
Portland sack two over abuse fallout
Portland Thorns have sacked president of soccer Gavin Wilkinson and president of business Mike Golub following the investigation into abuse in NWSL.
Wilkinson was found to have blamed a player who accused former coach Paul Riley of sexual misconduct, claiming she “put Riley in a bad position”.
Riley is accused of sexual coercion and harassment during his time as Portland head coach.
The Yates Investigation found senior club officials also knew of other alleged, non-sexual abuses as far back as 2014 but did not act on the information.
Portland were also found to have impeded and delayed the US Soccer Federation investigation led by Sally Yates.
Portland Thorns owner Merritt Paulson stepped down from club duties on Tuesday.
Abuse in women’s football is a ‘global, systemic problem’, says US midfielder Horan
United States midfielder Lindsey Horan believes there will be a ripple effect that sweeps through professional women’s sport after the investigation, which found abuse in the NWSL to be widespread.
“This investigation came forward and obviously I’m grateful for that, but it took way too long,” said Horan, who is currently on loan at Lyon from Portland Thorns. “This whole thing was prolonged. I sit here and think ‘it’s not done’. This is all over the world. Being a player in Europe right now, I know that.”
More than 200 players in the North American top tier were spoken to for the report, which concluded that abuse and sexual misconduct spanned multiple teams and coaches, and that the NWSL and governing body US Soccer failed to put in “basic measures” to safeguard its players.
Horan believes these findings are only the beginning of a much wider problem which exists across “women’s football in general”.
“This isn’t just it,” she continued. “It’s not just the NWSL. This is women’s football in general. It’s women in general, we have these problems all over the world. It’s a global, systemic problem. I don’t want this to be the end point.
“I feel hurt and disturbed and obviously just so much anger for these players, as well.”
Dunn: Report ‘nail in the coffin’
United States and Portland Thorns winger Crystal Dunn expects the NWSL report to hold the individuals at fault “accountable” for their actions, with US Soccer pledging to implement wholesale change off the back of the findings.
“This is a huge moment for the NWSL,” Dunn said. “It’s not just a huge moment for our domestic league, but leagues across the globe. What’s happening in the US is not a US issue. Unfortunately, this is something that is currently going on in multiple leagues.
“Change is on the horizon. This report coming out is the nail in the coffin. It’s going to allow for a lot of accountability, which up until now hasn’t taken place.
“I am quite hopeful that the healing phase can take place. Now that results are public and open for everyone to see, there is no hiding behind it. That transparency is exactly what we need in order to push change forward.”
Daly: Women’s football community stand in solidarity with players
England international Rachel Daly said the women’s football community “stand in solidarity with the players”.
“I was saddened to see it [the report]. Coming off the training pitch to that news, it is heart-breaking and it was sickening,” the Aston Villa player told Sky Sports.
“I could use many words to describe how I felt about that but those really jump to mind.
“It’s absolutely terrifying that girls are still going through this and that people are abusing power.
“For us as females, it is a very dangerous place to be when things like that happen and all I can do and say is that the rest of the women’s football community stand in solidarity with the girls that have been affected.
“For me personally, I’m very proud of them to come out and openly have a safe space to speak about these things. They should never have to speak about these things because they should never go through these things, and it is disgusting.
“But the NWSLPA have done a fantastic job there. They are a brilliant group of women and players and behind the scenes they work tirelessly to make a safe space for everybody to speak about things.
“My heart is with them and hope that finally these things can be put to an end.”
Bronze: Eliminating abuse ‘top of the list’
Daly’s England team-mate Lucy Bronze, who honed her skills in the US college system, says eliminating abusive behavior and sexual misconduct is “top of the list” of changes required in women’s sport.
“Women’s sport in general tends to have these issues and I think they probably have been going on for a long time, but people have never been brave enough to speak out,” said Bronze.
“So it’s not necessarily a new thing. The new thing is that we’re finally fighting back against it.
“It’s obviously very sad to read these stories. I’m very fortunate to have had a career where I’ve not had any of these problems.
“I’ve never looked back and thought, ‘that was a bit funny’. I’d like to think that a lot of my team-mates are fortunate enough to say that as well.
“We’ve said for a long time, a lot of things need to change in women’s sport and this is top of the list to change.
“It’s not just women’s football that has horrible abusive stories and allegations that happen – there are many women’s sports where it’s happened and we support all the females that come out and speak.”
Linehan: Abuse goes beyond NWSL, it’s a global systemic problem
The Athletic‘s Meg Linehan to Sky Sports News:
“I don’t know if anything was super surprising. I think it was just the level of detail was really new, but I think one of the biggest conclusions from that report was that it goes well beyond the NWSL.
“Players have affirmed that too. It’s not just women’s professional soccer, it’s at the youth level, it’s a global systemic problem and I think we are all just trying to wrap our heads around the scale of it at this very moment.
“What we are all really waiting on is to see what the accountability piece of this is going to look like. There’s going to be policy changes, and we know that, but I think what is really to be determined is are the owners, the general managers and all of the people in power, who have built this system and who have enabled abuse of pretty much every kind within the NWSL, if there are going to be repercussions for them.
“A few owners have removed themselves from the decision-making process in the NWSL. But that is really all we’ve seen so far.
“Everyone I have spoken to has said we don’t pretend like we are going to know all the answers. There were institutional failings from pretty much every institution that was involved, and part of the problem is that those institutions also pointed fingers at each other that they were actually the ones responsible.
“So, I think it is going to take all of those institutions but what we’ve seen really over the course of the past year plus is the players are the ones who are forcing this change, who I think are being forced to own the process even though they shouldn’t have to own that process.
“But it has been player pressure and it has been public pressure that has really driven this, and it took reporting and journalism to reveal it.
“The institutions weren’t doing the right things, but can they do that now? That is the question everyone is asking.”