Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the most successful and admired football players on the planet, has made a return to the football club where he was first fully-established as a world-class talent, Manchester United. As many fans at Old Trafford seemed to be overjoyed at the news, an overlooked and dark piece of Cristiano Ronaldo’s past must be addressed and acted upon.
In 2017, it was revealed that Ronaldo was in fact under investigation by the Las Vegas Police Department for a a rape allegation originating from 2009, the year in which he moved from United to Real Madrid. The details of the case are long and winding, and very obscured from particular parts of the mainstream media. Ronaldo reportedly paid the women in an out-of-court non-disclosure settlement estimating to be just below 400,000 USD. German news site Der Spiegel published an article in 2018 that contained documents which largely supported the case against Ronaldo, but the investigation did not end up charging Ronaldo in a belief that there was not enough evidence ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’. Ronaldo also had two allegations against his name of the same nature in 2005.
Ronaldo is not the first or the last football player to have accusations such as these pinned against him. Although Ronaldo remains a free man, the onus of now several historic allegations have not at all prevented the flourishing of his career.
On the 20th of April 2012, the striker Ched Evans was convicted for rape alongside another footballer. Sadly proving the commonality of such a crime in football, the case garnered national attention from football and the media. Although Evans and Ronaldos cases differ in that the former was actually convicted, what remains true to both is that little is addressed by the football clubs until the final conviction of the player. Evans was only released from his then club Sheffield United on the day of his conviction, and no club has publicly distanced themself from Ronaldo after multiple allegations have been attached to him.
Evans was later found ‘not guilty’ in a retrial and was released in 2016, serving four years of what should have been a five year sentence. The appeal from Evans however was not without controversy, in which much of which was founded on bringing up the sexual history of the complainant. Evans can now be found playing at Championship club Preston North End, and even returned to Sheffield United.
Without possessing the wealth, power or footballing prowess of Ronaldo, Evans has continued to make a career out of the sport. In fact, even when he remained in prison, Evans was approached by a number of clubs. Ronaldo on the other hand, is considered one of the greatest footballers of all time. He profits from a number of actors, such as the club he plays for, the league, his national team, sponsors and just about any member of the elite who can associate with him. You would probably be forgiven for not knowing about Ronaldo’s allegations, because they are purposely hidden and not reported on.
Another horrific story broke from the other team in Manchester last week. Benjamin Mendy of Manchester City had been arrested on four counts of rape and one of sexual assault. What is even more concerning is that Mendy was arrested in November 2020 for an investigation relating to the current charges. He played 18 games for the club since that arrest, even playing in Manchester City’s first game of the season. Only now that his arrest is public, he has been suspended.
For the social impetus that football has seemingly gifted itself in this country since England’s Euro 2020 defeat, the lack of action against suspected rapists such as the ones mentioned from clubs and any individual relevant to their career proves the mere profiteering motive that will seem forever central to football. Even at the face of a western justice system that categorically prevents proper conviction of sexual abusers, football clubs and those relevant will only ever part ways from a footballing asset unless properly convicted. And even then, will try and secure their contract as soon as they are released.
Ronaldo’s signing is not only a step backward for British football’s supposed belief in social justice and intolerance to sexism, but also for the ‘anti-greed’ movement that spawned out of the announcement of the European Super League. Not long ago it was Manchester United fans who stormed their own stadium to protest against the Glazer family who own the football club. Now, that movement within United has fallen silent. The flash new signings and the return of Ronaldo have satisfied fans for now. However, it’s an unfortunate coincidence that the Glazer’s effort to silence fans is through the return of a morally deluded individual such as themselves.
Howard Green, is a member of the YCL’s East of England branch