Chelsea, Arsenal: WSL teams make poignant gesture to show unity with NWSL players

Women’s Super League teams linked arms before their respective matches to show solidarity with National Women’s Soccer League players impacted by sexual abuse allegations

Women’s Super League teams linked arms before their respective matches to show solidarity with National Women’s Soccer League players impacted by sexual abuse allegations.

The poignant gesture was made before matches between Arsenal and Everton, Brighton and Tottenham, Reading and Aston Villa, and West Ham and Birmingham.

Chelsea players and coaching team linked arms before kick-off, with their opponents Leicester deciding to applaud the act of solidarity instead.

NWSL players had stopped their matches on Wednesday to link arms, with the NWSL Players' Association describing the moment as recognition of the "six years it took for Mana [Shim], Sinead [Farrelly], and all those who fought for too long to be heard."

A previous round of matches had been postponed after The Athletic detailed allegations of sexual misconduct by North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley last week. NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird also stepped down from her role.

The Athletic spoke to more than a dozen players Riley had coached since 2010, with one player, Sinead Farrelly, claiming Riley coerced her into having sex with him while they were both at Portland Thorns. She also accused Riley of forcing her to kiss a teammate, Mana Shim, at his apartment.

Since The Athletic’s report was published, North Carolina Courage has sacked Riley, who denies "the majority" of allegations.

Arsenal and Everton linked arms before their match in the Women's Super League

Portland Thorns apologised for their lack of transparency after receiving a complaint about Riley in 2015, and announced general manager Gavin Wilkinson had been placed on administrative leave.

The allegations from the NWSL have caused shockwaves around the world, including in England. Chelsea captain Magda Eriksson said she was "devastated" to hear the reports.

"We just discussed it and talked about how horrifying it is," she said. "It’s good that players are brave enough now to step forward and for these events to come to light."

Birmingham City manager Scott Booth, one of seven male head coaches in the WSL, spoke about the importance of creating a safe environment for female football players.

"You have to constantly bear in mind that you are a man in women's football," he said.

"There's certain things which are just unacceptable. It's crucial that you create an environment, as a male in women's football, that is safe and feels safe for women to come to work without the worry that anything like that may happen or be imposed upon them.

"For me it's about making sure it's an environment the players want to come into and they have no fear whatsoever."

Manchester United manager Marc Skinner, who previously worked in the NWSL as Orlando Pride boss, said "players have every right to stand up and want to be protected", while Manchester City manager Gareth Taylor said dealing with player welfare concerns "needs to be the focus point on everyone's mind".

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