Mediapart report this morning that a sexual abuse scandal relating to Lyon’s women’s set-up is threatening to engulf the club.
Women footballers at youth level, between the ages of 15 & 18, are not protected by any formal contract, which is unlike for men at the same stage of their careers. This inequality is not merely symbolic, but it has concrete implications.
These rules enabled Lyon to unceremoniously and without obvious cause remove a young female footballer from their academy just days after she levelled accusations of sexual assault against her manager in June 2018, the Head Coach of the women’s U16s.
The young girl’s lawyer, Slim Ben Achour, has taken the club to court. Confronted by these accusations, the manager in question did not respond when asked for comment by Mediapart, and preferred to resign from his position.
Court sources indicate that another alleged victim of his sexual abuse is enlisted in the same lawsuit.
The outlet claims that the manager in question would send messages to his U16 players which had nothing to do with football, such as “I feel good that you are here.”
The girl in question, who is being called Myriam in this article to protect her identity, informed her lawyer of a situation at an international tournament at Colmar from 18th to 20th May 2018, when the manager in question ensured that his bedroom was situated next to that of Myriam and her best friend. The manager then asked the two girls to come to his room to talk about the match that was happening the following day – they stayed in that room until 01:30.
According to Myriam’s testimony, the following day, the manager went into the two girls’ room on multiple occasions, “slipping his hand under the duvet covers, and circulating his hand.”
The following day, myriad alerted a professional female player and her own family. Myriam also explained that throughout the season, the manager offered to make her captain if she sent him videos of her friend.
Upon returning from Colmar, Lyon representatives tell the U16 team that their manager was leaving, explaining that his attitude was against club values and the law. Up until that point, the club claims to have never heard of any suspect behaviour on his behalf.
On May 30th, at their request, Myriam’s parents were received in Lyon by Sonia Bompastor, head of the women’s youth set-up at Lyon, who told them in front of a witness that the club had gone to court on the manager.
But a few days later, on June 5, Sonia Bompastor wrote to them: “I spoke this morning with my management regarding [Myriam] and financial support. I confirm that the bookings and the assumption of financial expenses of transport, accommodation and meals will be entirely your responsibility until June 30, 2019.”
The club knew very well that this measure, according to the outlet, would lead to Myriam quitting Lyon, as her family could not afford to pay for these costs, which had all previously been covered by the club as they are for all other youth team players.
When asked about this by Mediapart, Lyon did not deny removing Myriam from the team, but claimed that their reasoning for doing so was due to her on-pitch performances, that she had not progressed enough as a footballer. How could they make this consideration when the disgraced manager who had just resigned was the only individual who spent enough time with the U16s to be able evaluate their performance levels?
Myriam’s lawyer is fighting this legal battle to ensure that his client is reintegrated into Lyon’s female youth set-up. Her own family wants this too, to reclaim dignity for their child.