Thursday, 9 February 2012

When football tops child abuse in the headlines - what message does that send?

“Harry Redknap is the favourite to be the next England manager,” was this morning’s top news story when I woke up. I suppose it was inevitable really, Fabio Capello resigned last night, and football fans up and down the country are speculating on who the next manager will be.

And then the newsreader went on to announce that “the number of children being taken into care is increasing,” and if you look at the news sites, it appears that 903 applications were made last month to take children into care.

I get that a large number of people in the country want to speculate about who the New England manager will be. I’m not entirely sure why, since the European Championships aren’t for another four months, but ok, people that like to discuss these things are clearly interested, and as such, these stories are newsworthy. But actually, we have a sports bulletin for that, and “Harry Redknap is the favourite to be the next England manager,” was the top sports story as well.

So how is it that our priorities of what is important appear to have become so skewed that the national sport is headline over the frankly heartbreaking fact that the perceived numbers of children at risk of serious harm is increasing, and that 903 applications were made last month alone to take children into care?

Why is it that football has dominated the headlines this week, with first John Terry’s removal as England captain, and then Capello’s reaction to said removal of John Terry, and then Harry Redknap being found not guilty of tax evasion, And then Capello’s resignation, and finally, Redknap being the favourite to take over the England team, and yet a story that seems to indicate that the increase in neglect an abuse of children in the UK is apparently on the increase comes second? Not only that, apart from a mention of it on the news this morning, and one news service tweeting it on twitter (and I follow all the major news ones), that story has been pretty low key.

And I can only conclude that in truth, people are more interested in a story that relates to football than they are in one that relates to child abuse.

We can all speculate about football. It’s something you can talk about in the office, down the pub, on your preferred social media. What next for the England team/will they get an English manager this time/maybe they’ll go out of the European Championships earlier/maybe they’ll win, and so the conversation will continue.

But child abuse is something that, if we’re honest, people don’t want to talk about. Partly because the idea of it is just too unpalatable for people to want to think about, but I think partly also because people just don’t want to know or acknowledge that it goes on, and especially not to the extent that it is increasing rather than decreasing.

But only by acknowledging that it goes on can something be done about it, and so perhaps we need to question why it is that the media is assisting in this ignorance by prioritising the frankly trivial matter of who is going to be the next England manager over the welfare of our children.

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