Adam Johnson, the Sunderland winger who admitted kissing and grooming a 15 year old girl, was found guilty last week of one count of sexual activity with a child and cleared of one further count. Johnson was allowed to continue to play football, earning around £3 million while awaiting trial, despite the police fully briefing the club’s Chief Executive Officer Margaret Byrne that he had kissed the girl and exchanged 834 WhatsApp messages.
The day he pleaded guilty at the start of his trial he was sacked by the club. In court Johnson revealed that he had informed Sunderland of this behaviour.
This week in our current affairs piece we ask, should Johnson have been stopped from playing football while awaiting trial? Is it innocent until proven guilty, or should some profession, situations or crimes be exempt from this rule?
Telling the truth
A football club such as Sunderland will have various community schemes in place which they will be keen to promote. One wonders if this is promoted when it suits them. Having paid £10 million for Johnson I can only assume those who control the purse strings at the club must have wanted to get their money’s worth from him. Why else when they are aware of even some of the facts regarding his activity with a minor, would they let him continue to represent them on the pitch every week?
As it happens this week, Byrne has resigned with immediate effect and, according to a report from The Guardian, acknowledged she had made a “serious error of judgment” in letting him continue. The victim in this case had to put up with a year of being disbelieved and taunted at the football club she followed so passionately.
To put it in simple terms, many people assumed that if Johnson was playing then he must be telling the truth – and if he was telling the truth, the girl must be a liar. And it was the ‘many people’ that took to social media to call her names and make her life a misery.
As a professional footballer he could have come into contact with minors on a regular basis – the fan base speaks for itself, ignoring the mascots and community projects the club would have been involved with. He should have been suspended – as other workforces tend to do while an investigation takes place. I am assuming that the club were thinking of themselves and not the risk that their fans could be put in. Of course it is a difficult situation for any employer if they are not in knowledge of the facts – but it appears they were. The fact he admitted some of what happened to the club and they still continued to employ him is inexcusable.
A discussion on our writer’s page gave people the chance to air their opinions. These opinions were expressed before Byrne’s resignation.
I think Sunderland were right to support him when he claimed his innocence, and they also did the right thing by dropping him the minute he pleaded guilty. If he had been slightly more honest from the moment of his arrest, Sunderland wouldn’t have been in such a tricky situation. Although I actually support Newcastle, as someone from the north east, I 100% sympathise with the fans who supported him and were let down. I believe that he should have to pay Sunderland back the wages he was given between his arrest and his guilty plea. Absolute scumbag, and it’s embarrassing to come from the same place as him.
Being based in Sunderland, on the bus going to uni today I had heard some disgusting things about what people were saying about Adam Johnson it made me sick and upset.
I feel that he should have been suspended due to being in the public eye and have an impact on their young and/or impressionable fans. Other people who have been accused of similar things (i.e. Actors in Coronation Street, although I can’t remember which ones) were suspended.
Also, although for entirely different reasons, a colleague of mine was suspended whilst the company got to the bottom of a misdemeanour and stated that they would pay her the money that she missed out on if she was found not to be involved.
I suspect that most employers would suspend their workers in this situation. Why should football be any different?
Why indeed? The competitive nature of football clubs in which there is pressure to sign the most talented and keep them and their families happy may be the answer. They employ child welfare officers and deliver lifestyle courses and are seen to be doing what they can for the community. But what happens when a crisis story hits the headlines and their ‘good name’ and profits could be hit hard. It appears that in Sunderland’s case they remember they are a business and nothing much will get in the way of their profits. For which they should rightly be ashamed.
It was reported in the Guardian this weekend that the shadow sports minister Clive Efford has called on the Football Association to develop a set of guidelines for the clubs that would see players suspended if they were accused of serious offences, as happens in the teaching profession.
Unfortunately, for Johnson’s victim, this is too late. Let us hope the FA are listening for the future.
What do you think? Should Johnson have kept his job? Have your say in the comments section below.