Since allegations of abuse and assault first came out against Manchester United player Mason Greenwood in January 2022, it has been one of the most contentious topics in my family, particularly between my dad and I.
I’ve been a Man U supporter since I was a baby wearing a tiny Ryan Giggs jersey, and have watched the successes and failures of the club almost every weekend during the Premier League season. I’ve never feigned expertise in football: my fantasy team is subpar and I often ask my dad pretty stupid questions about the sport.
But in recent years, I’ve had far more passion for the business and social justice sides of football rather than the technical aspects. I’m up to speed on the Glazers’ sale of the club and even more on Marcus Rashford’s advocacy around ensuring that children have access to hot meals during school lunchtimes.
So when allegations against Mason Greenwood came out early last year, I was crushed. He looked to be a really strong player with a similar background to Rashford, and loads of fans saw him as having come really far within the team. Even talking to my dad about the allegations in those early days, there seemed to have been a general condemnation of Greenwood and that he had no further place within the team or within professional football.
Earlier this year, however, the prosecution’s case against Greenwood was dropped due to the withdrawal of key witnesses and the emergence of new evidence. Neither of these reasons for dropping the case were ever elaborated on. This prompted numerous discussions with my dad and other male extended family members about Greenwood and how, according to them, he shouldn’t have a mistake that he made as a young man follow him and ruin his career.
His guilt is not absolved because his victim no longer wishes to prosecute the crime.
However, the withdrawal of a key witness and of new evidence (especially as there are no specifics available as to its contents) does not mean it was a mistake or that he did not commit the crimes of which he was accused. His guilt is not absolved because his victim no longer wishes to prosecute the crime. Victims of sexual violence choose not to prosecute the perpetrators for a multitude of reasons, including fear of isolation, lack of support, or public backlash. With her alleged perpetrator being a very public figure, these fears are all inherent in the victim’s situation.
The most damning evidence, which will never absolve itself, are the recordings of him speaking to his girlfriend at the time. While persuading her to have sex, Greenwood remarks: “I don’t give a fuck what you want, you little shit” in response to her statements about not wanting to engage in sexual intercourse. Throughout the exchange he asks her to “move her fucking legs up,” refers to her as a “twat,” and shows a blatant disregard for consent.
Manchester United made the correct decision by not allowing Greenwood to return, but their exact motives for doing so cause some scepticism. About a week before the decision, it was leaked that the team intended to slowly bring him back to the squad. It was incredibly poorly timed, falling on the day the English women’s team secured a place in the 2023 World Cup final. It was met by mass controversy, largely from women’s sport networks and a significant portion of the Man U fanbase. Though it isn’t confirmed, one could heavily suspect that the club’s changing stance on the decision only a few days later was prompted by this public backlash.
Having Greenwood absolved of his allegations after having heard the recording, it would be a travesty to have him displayed on a national scale as a face of the team, and an insult to all fans who are victims of gender-based violence.
Greenwood was a young man when the allegations were made. Mason and his girlfriend are still involved in a relationship, and whatever healing is occurring between the two of them is necessary and also private. Having Greenwood absolved of his allegations after having heard the recording, it would be a travesty to have him displayed on a national scale as a face of the team, and an insult to all fans who are victims of gender-based violence.
It was undeniably a precarious situation. The club put faith into the justice system to decide Greenwood’s fate, and the justice system failed to deliver a verdict. The United Kingdom’s justice system is failing women at an alarming rate, with a steep decline of domestic abuse convictions reported only last year. Additionally, it takes on average almost two years to reach trial stage in most cases of reported rape. That can lead to a victim doubting themselves or their story, as they often receive no updates on the status of their case.
In a legal sense, Greenwood is not guilty, but is also not innocent. To have him wear a red jersey on the pitch of Old Trafford would destroy the club’s reputation. A strong forward is not worth complacency and apathy towards perpetrators of violence and rape in any way, shape, or form. Manchester United made the correct decision, but the public outcry holding them to account should not have been necessary.