Gardaí probe launched as allegations made against Irish women’s soccer coaches

The allegations will be explored in an RTÉ feature-length broadcast on Sunday

The RTÉ Investigates documentary will be broadcast on Sunday.
The RTÉ Investigates documentary will be broadcast on Sunday.

Allegations of unwanted sexual advances by senior soccer coaches towards women players in the Republic are being probed by Gardaí following a two-year investigation by journalists.

A joint investigation by RTÉ and the Sunday Independent will culminate with a feature length documentary being broadcast this Sunday at 9.30pm on RTÉ One, alongside the publication of extensive articles into the alleged treatment of players in the 1990s.

The reports and the RTÉ Investigates: Girls in Green broadcast will explore claims of inappropriate behaviour, and will feature testimony from former female players, coaches and officials.

The reporting has prompted Gardaí to open an investigation into a former senior coach, after allegations were made by players that he made unwanted sexual advances. A separate complaint has been made about a second coach.

A spokesperson for the FAI has said the governing body is “shocked and appalled” at the allegations, which come ahead of a new anonymous reporting mechanism to allow players and others to flag concerns and report inappropriate behaviour to an independent complaint handling firm.

The investigation, led by RTÉ's Marie Crowe and the Sunday Independent’s Mark Tighe, found many players were shocked to learn that others had reported similar behavior to that which they had allegedly experienced.

One player claimed she was not selected again after fleeing from her manager’s hotel room when he tried to kiss her, while another felt she was “exiled” by a coach after she said she saw him behaving inappropriately with other players.

The investigation looks at whether the lack of proper safeguards “promoted an unhealthy dynamic between coaches and players and examines what measures the FAI took to ensure a secure environment for talented young girls who wanted to play soccer”.

The FAI’s new reporting mechanism is being promoted through its Play It Right campaign, which is being rolled out at clubs across the Republic

“The Association was shocked and appalled to learn of disturbing allegations of abuse brought forward by women involved in Irish football in the 1990′s,” a FAI spokesperson said in response to the claims made in the investigation.

They added the FAI “acknowledges the enormous courage of the women in coming forward and making their concerns known and would encourage anyone involved in Irish football to report any concern that may arise”.