Child sex abuse at Dutch football clubs: an investigation is opened

Edition 20 June 2017, by Peter Sharples

Reports of child sexual abuse in Dutch football clubs keep rising. So far, four clubs are implicated, including PSV, Vitesse and Sparta. Two new alleged victims have come forward. According to the Volkskrant, the recent reports might have a snowball effect, similar to what happened in Britain, where 500 victims have come forward in only a few months.

Earlier in May, several former youth players of PSV Eindhoven told The Volkskrant that they were sexually abused by team leaders when they were teenagers. This was the first report of its kind involving Dutch football clubs, and was quickly followed by similar complaints from former players of Arnhem club Vitesse.

Alleged victims aged 8 to 13

According to the first PSV victim who came forward, a man involved in the youth training sexually abused him for years, starting when he was 8-years-old, often after training in a forest near the club’s youth complex. In 1996, a 12-year-old youth player for Vitesse was sexually assaulted and held against his will for a whole night by the leader of the team. Unlike for the PSV case, where the club has said they did not know about the abuse, the incident at Vitesse was kept secret at the request of the club.According to a Vitesse manager, the club wanted to protect the privacy of the victim, but he also said that he “would be lying if I said that the image of the club did not play a role in that decision”. The accused was suspended at the time, then fired, and received a six week prison sentence, which was conditionally suspended.

Potential victims called to come forward

Both clubs have apologized to the victims and are calling for other potential victims to come forward. “We have invited the men to tell us what happened and we are going to offer them help to process the trauma,” PSV club director Toon Gerbrands told the Volkskrant. The clubs also intend to use the experience of the victims to help youth football players getting information they need about sexual abuse. PSV has opened a helpline for victims to come forward, and has urged other clubs to do the same. One month after opening the helpline, PSV has already received five reports of sexual abuse, dating from the 60s to the 90s. “It sounds strange in such a nasty affair, but the fact that we receive reports, I see as a compliment”, Gerbrands told the Volkskrant. “The silence is broken.”

Two new victims, Sparta involved

End of May, two new alleged victims, whom were 13 years old at the time, have come forward. One of them used to play for the junior team Sparta in the 1990s, and claim he was abused by a sport masseur, who worked there voluntarily until recently. The second case dates from the 1970s, and involved a coach.

Open investigation into child abuse at sports club

An investigation has been opened into sexual abuse of children within Dutch sports club, on behalf of sports federation NOC*NSF. A spokesperson at the Royal Dutch Football Federation KNVB has told the Volkskrant that “it is important that clubs don’t wait until there is an incident, but that they are already available for people who experienced something”. In March, the Volkskrant said they had spoken to dozens of victims, who didn’t have faith in the complaints procedures. After the recent events and with the opening of an investigation, more victims could come forward within the next few months, as it was the case in Britain last year.