US players warn 'systemic' sexual misconduct and abuse in NWSL extends to other top leagues

Crystal Dunn - US players warn 'systemic' sexual misconduct and abuse in NWSL extends to other top leagues - Martin Rose/Getty Images
Crystal Dunn - US players warn 'systemic' sexual misconduct and abuse in NWSL extends to other top leagues - Martin Rose/Getty Images

US national team players have said the "systemic" sexual misconduct and abuse exposed in top-flight American women's football this week is not the "end point", but rather a problem that extends throughout the rest of the world – including European leagues.

On Monday women's football was rocked by a damning independent report into abuse allegations against several coaches in the National Women's Soccer League.

Led by former acting US Attorney General Sally Yates, the report found that the league, teams and US Soccer had all failed to adequately address evidence of abuse that had been put to them by whistleblowers.

Speaking to media just 48 hours after the report's release – and two days prior to a sold-out Wembley clash with England – USWNT players Lindsey Horan and Crystal Dunn said they hoped it would spark a similar reckoning in global women's football.

Horan has previously alleged that she experienced body-shaming and an unhealthy, sexist culture at Paris Saint-Germain between 2012 and 2016, including under coach Farid Benstiti – who went on to manage NWSL side OL Reign.

Now playing on loan at French side Lyon, Horan said that similar patterns of behaviour to those detailed in the NWSL report exist in Europe.

"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 so I don’t want that to be the end point," Horan said.

"This investigation came forward and we’re thankful of that but it took way too long, this whole thing was prolonged incredibly and I sit here and I’m like, it’s not done, this is all over the world and being a player in Europe right now, I know that."

Dunn, who previously played for Chelsea in the WSL, said that she and her team-mates were struggling to "find pride" in wearing the US national team shirt this week and added: "I’d be lying if I said we’re doing well. We’re getting through it. It’s a huge moment for not just our domestic league but leagues across the globe.

"What’s happening in the US is not just a US issue. Unfortunately, this is something that is currently probably going on in multiple leagues.

"I do think change is on the horizon. I think this report coming out was the nail in the coffin. It’s going to allow a lot of accountability that hasn’t really taken place. I am quite hopeful that the healing phase can now really take place."

The shocking report has marred the build up to this Friday's clash between the world champion Americans and newly crowned European champions England.

Speaking from England's training base at the Lensbury in west London, defender Lucy Bronze said her team stood "in solidarity" with their opponents and, though she had never experienced it first-hand, acknowledged that sexual misconduct plagues women's sport generally.

"Every single one of us are in solidarity with all of those players, particularly the ones who have spoken out and told their truths," Bronze said. "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.

"I think it’s sad but 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. So it’s not necessarily a new thing, the new thing is that we’re finally fighting back against it.

"I just hope that the right people are listening to put and affect the changes that need to happen. 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."