Lucy Bronze believes women’s sport is now in a position to fight back against abuse, explaining that these issues have always been prevalent, but players have now found the courage to speak out.
A year-long, independent report into women’s soccer in the US, published on Monday, found verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct to be ‘systematic’, and spanning across ‘multiple teams, coaches, and victims’.
The report was published a little over a week after 15 Spanish players made themselves unavailable for selection for the women’s national team due to the detrimental impact it was having on their ’emotional and personal state’.
Bronze condoned the fact she had to consider herself ‘fortunate’ to never have encountered these issues during her playing career.
“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. It’s sad that I have to say that 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 guess I’m fortunate enough to say that, I’d like to think that a lot of my teammates are fortunate enough to say that as well. It’s difficult that these things happen and I think they’ve happened for a long time. I think the main thing now is that people are brave enough to speak out.”
The report found that clubs, the NWSL and US Soccer failed to put basic safeguarding measures in place to protect players from abusive coaches.
“Abuse in the NWSL is rooted in a deeper culture in women’s soccer, beginning in youth leagues, that normalizes verbally abusive coaching and blurs boundaries between coaches and players,” the report read.
Bronze praised those who had spoken out and labelled the report findings ‘just disgraceful’.
“Every single one of us are in solidarity with all of those players, particularly the ones who have spoken out and told their truths, because I can imagine – well, I can’t even imagine – how hard it must be to have gone through it, and then to speak out,” the right-back added.
“I think the bigger picture is that then speaking out is hopefully going to make sure that these types of things don’t happen again and that they can make solutions, people can be held accountable.
“I think the most important thing for us to do as players, not only as English players and the US, but is to support those players and to be behind them in everything that they want to do and they want to say, and as an England team and English players we are fully behind these players.
“It’s just disgraceful to be honest and I think it’s quite upsetting to read some of the stories.”