With the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar set to kick off in approximately one month, players from all 32 competing nations are preparing to compete at one of the world’s greatest sporting spectacles. Of the 32 participating teams, England is approaching this World Cup with a general sense of optimism, headlined by a core of established senior players and a generation of breathtakingly talented young players who have inserted themselves into the conversation of the world’s elite. Before the beginning of the calendar year, this generation included another prominent name – one who, at the peak of his performance, was being touted as the next great forward to represent the Three Lions. Nevertheless, due to an ongoing legal dilemma stemming from discoveries made just eight months ago, this player has not only been removed from the conversation of players to represent England at the World Cup but has also brought the status of his professional career to a screeching and potentially fatal halt.
Last week, Manchester United forward Mason Greenwood was formally charged with attempted rape, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and controlling and coercive behavior. The charges stemmed from his arrests by the Greater Manchester Police on January 30 and February 1 on suspicion of rape, assault, sexual assault, and making threats to kill. In a statement following the arrests, Greater Manchester Police indicated that the arrests resulted from the force’s awareness of social media images and videos posted by a woman regarding various incidents of physical violence. Greenwood was released on bail the morning after the initial arrests and remained on bail in the months following. Before the announcement of the formal charges, however, Greenwood was arrested on October 15 over allegations that he breached his bail conditions.
After appearing at Manchester & Salford Magistrates’ Court on October 17, Greenwood was remanded in custody once a district judge found that he had indeed breached his bail conditions over allegations of attempted rape and other offenses. Nevertheless, Greenwood was released on bail on October 19 after a private hearing at Minshull Street Crown Court, as he now awaits a court appearance before Manchester Crown Court to determine the merits of the charges placed upon him. Coincidentally, Greenwood’s court date falls on November 21 – the date of England’s opening World Cup match against Iran.
Adding to the legal troubles surrounding Greenwood, his employer has now formally responded to his actions with official consequences of their own. On October 15, Manchester United released a statement acknowledging the criminal charges brought forth against Greenwood and confirming that Greenwood remains suspended by the club during the pendency of the judicial process. While such a statement officially confirms the club’s willingness to suspend Greenwood in light of the controversy surrounding the allegations, it must be noted that the club, while not having officially suspended Greenwood until October 15, has prohibited the forward from training or featuring in any games with the team since the date of the initial arrests. Interestingly, as part of the terms of the standard Premier League contract established by the most recent edition of the Professional Footballers’ Association’s collective bargaining agreement, Greenwood is still being paid by the club, as suspended players are only withheld from pay for a maximum of fourteen days. Yet while Greenwood still receives financial compensation from his employer, he has removed himself from contention for a place in the current Manchester United team and has seemingly lost any opportunity to lead his country in Qatar.
While the legal outcome of Greenwood’s alleged actions remains to be seen, the nature of the situation demonstrates that such actions may indeed have consequences. If Greenwood’s alleged actions are indeed realized to be true, the importance must certainly shift toward the support and well-being of the young woman who brought forth the allegations rather than focusing on the implications of Greenwood’s professional career. Nevertheless, the mere fact that this possibility may be proven reality has proven enough to impede the ultimate dream of one of England’s once most promising talents – to play in a World Cup. Ultimately, this story serves as a lesson that, no matter who you are or what you do, a failure to treat others with the respect and decency they deserve may leave you with a court date rather than with the chance to lift one of the world’s most coveted sporting trophies.
Bryce Goodwyn is a 1L at Regent University School of Law. He is a member of the Honors Program and currently works as a Dean’s Fellow completing research and administrative work. He also formed part of the recently established National Sports Legal and Business Society as the East Region Chair. He can be found on Twitter @BryceGoodwyn and on LinkedIn as Bryce Goodwyn.