FIFA announced Friday the opening of an investigation after allegations of sexual assault made by two former players against a coach, which shake the North American Women’s Football League (NWSL) whose commissioner, pointed out for her inaction, ended up resigning.
Created in 2013, the NWSL is at the heart of a huge storm that continues to grow, since the revelation of this case by the site The Athletic. The International Football Federation has decided to act in the aftermath of the dismissal, by North Carolina Courage, of coach Paul Riley who is facing allegations of sexual abuse, including forced intercourse.
“Due to the gravity and seriousness of the allegations made by the players, the judicial bodies of FIFA are actively looking into the matter and have opened a preliminary investigation”, indicated the instance, recalling that “Anyone found guilty of bad behavior and abuse in football must be brought to justice, punished and excluded from the game”.
“As part of this investigation, FIFA will contact the respective parties, including the US Soccer Federation and the NWSL, to obtain further information on the allegations of abuse raised”, is it specified.
Two former players, Sinead Farrelly and Meleana “Mana” Shim, told The Athletic having had to face several times, since 2011, the alleged inappropriate behavior of Riley, whose coaching license was also suspended by the American Federation, which also announced that it was conducting its investigation.
Farrelly accused the 58-year-old Englishman of having subjected her to “Forced sex” when he was at the head of Philadelphia Independence, notably one evening, following a loss in the final of a competition. After which he would have said to her: “We take this to our graves. “
Farrelly and Shim also claimed that on another occasion, when Riley was coaching them with the Portland Thorns, he forced them to kiss in his apartment. The latter disputed these allegations “Completely false”. “I never had sexual relations with these players, nor made them sexual advances”, he defended himself to the media.
Immediately, reactions of indignation poured in, also denouncing the passivity of the NSWL. “The league has been informed on multiple occasions and each time refused to investigate”, affirmed the American international Alex Morgan, who played under the orders of Riley at the same time as the two accusers, supporting his point with screenshots of emails sent by Farrelly to the league.
The star, activist, Megan Rapinoe also expressed her anger: “To all those who are in the exercise of power and who let it go, who heard and rejected, who allowed this monster to change teams without any repercussions, fuck yourself, you are all monsters and you can ALL resign immediately. “
“Lots of things to fix”
The players’ union (NWSLPA) for its part denounced “A systemic abuse, a scourge for the League”. League Commissioner Lisa Baird initially promised to put in place an anonymous reporting process for players and staff. Then send the file to the US Center for SafeSport, so that this independent organization, mandated to fight against sexual abuse in sport in the United States, can investigate.
More and more in the heart of the turmoil, she finally admitted Friday morning to have shown too much passivity. “This week, and much of this season, has been incredibly traumatic for our players. (…) and I take full responsibility for the role I played. I am very sorry for the pain that so many people are feeling ”, she said, when announcing that the championship matches scheduled for this weekend would not take place, at the request of the players’ union.
The leader then agreed that the “League has a lot to fix”. Especially since Paul Riley was the second NWSL coach to be dismissed this week, the body having terminated the contract between Richie Burke and the Washington Spirit, following an investigation into alleged facts of moral harassment and other abusive behavior .
In an untenable situation, it was ultimately she who took the first strong decision: the NWSL announced in the evening that it “Accepted his resignation”.