How to proceed again?
April 27, 2021 12:28 AM   Subscribe

We would be grateful for some more advice regarding this incident

Further to this incident, the coaches reported the incident to the club safeguarding officer who never got in touch with my sister to hear her account but as the manager chose to step down, things continued relatively normally. My sister tried to get in touch with other witnesses but they all were uncontactable and at subsequent practises/matches ostracised my sister.

The former manager has never contacted her to explain or apologise but posted daily on the WhatsApp group how he would love to be at the practise/match but was unable to because of the circumstances. Every day, he was eliciting sympathy from the parents who seemed to all be supporting him.

My sister then received this email from the former manager:

It’s now 10 days since you reported me to the clubs DBS officer following your accusation of tackling xxxxx during a game of touch rugby.

Following the incident and my subsequent resignation I have asked if any of the other parents would be willing to take over the Team Manager role. Unsurprisingly, given your actions, I have had zero responses.

Whilst I have stayed away from training/games and operated behind the scenes to maintain continuity it is clear to me following this weekends match that it is too difficult to keep going in this manner especially when we begin to play home matches and the TM will need to be present.

We need to swiftly resolve this issue for the good of the team as it is not fair on the children, coaches, parents nor myself.

I along with the coaches did explain to you it was an accidental coming together in what is a normal training incident in a game of touch rugby. However, from a hundred yards away and with negligible knowledge of the game you formed your opinion and chose to pursue your course of action which, of course, is your right to do so.

To put it plainly I am not willing to continue as team manager whilst you remain at the club as there is an irreconcilable loss of trust between us and I don’t want to be continually looking over my shoulder doing a volunteer role. The parents yesterday have presented me with a signed request to return to post which at the moment is not practicable.

Therefore I see 2 possibilities.
1. you take over the TM role.
2. you find an alternative club.

I appreciate this is not a pleasant situation but it is one of your own making. If you have an alternative solution then I’m willing to listen. Can you please let me know what you would like to do going forward.

We are completely in shock with this response from the former manager and are looking for advice on how to proceed.
posted by charlen to Human Relations (24 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
That is a genuinely shocking response. Really awful. I feel like it’s time to take legal advice over the safeguarding failures that they’re showing you.

In the very short term - don’t reply to this horrible letter. It’s not on you to enable this guy’s return.
posted by rd45 at 1:26 AM on April 27 [37 favorites]

Wow. I would say it's time to go beyond the club level here, up to the RFU safeguarding team itself, to seek a bar on this person's involvement with the club going forward. Regulation 21, on safeguarding, in the list of official England Rugby regulations, goes into what a bar is and how they are put into place. Here is a PDF of the regulation.

Their contact info is here:
posted by mdonley at 1:53 AM on April 27 [29 favorites]

Given this:

Further to this incident, the coaches reported the incident to the club safeguarding officer who never got in touch with my sister

I would absolutely escalate as mdonley says. A Safeguarding Officer who doesn't respond to safeguarding issues is completely useless.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:12 AM on April 27 [27 favorites]

My friend in the UK has worked as an attorney for a succession of sports associations, including for issues like this. I asked him about this. He agrees that it's time to escalate in the way that mdonley outlined. Specifically, if the person in question is a known player, former or otherwise, this is how you ensure that this is recorded in a way that would be meaningfully reflected in the record moving forward.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 2:53 AM on April 27 [12 favorites]

He wants to know how you plan to proceed after he assaulted a child and is complaining that he’s upset that he can’t be a manager?! Lawyer. Lawyer now. What the actual fuck. Throw the book at him.
posted by Jubey at 3:11 AM on April 27 [18 favorites]

Pay special attention to item 21.3.2 of the Regulation:

A Bar may be imposed when the Legal Officer (or RFU Head of Safeguarding in the
case of an interim Bar) receives:
(a) notification that an individual is the subject of an investigation by the Police,
Social Services or any other authority relating to an Offence;
(b) notification of the outcome of an investigation by the Police, Social Services or
any other authority relating to an Offence; and/or
(c) notification that an individual has been charged with an Offence;
(d) notification that an individual has been convicted of, or made the subject of a
caution in respect of, an Offence
(e) ...

It seems clear your sister needs to go to the Police with this. She should seek legal advice, too. She is not dependent on the sympathy of the other witnesses: if the guy is charged and the case goes to trial, the court can compel witnesses to appear.
posted by Pechorin at 3:44 AM on April 27 [7 favorites]

Every day, he was eliciting sympathy from the parents who seemed to all be supporting him.

What a piece of work. This is absolutely an attempt to intimidate your sister. I would be shocked if there is even a real signed request from the other parents.

You have great advice above re: escalating and legal ramifications, which I urge you to follow, but I would also check in with your nephew if you haven't already done so. If the other parents are really acting like this, they may have passed on their toxic opinions to their children and may be passively/actively encouraging them to put pressure on your nephew as well. Does he have someone to talk to and confide in if he's being bullied? How does he feel about staying on the team in these circumstances (and be mindful that he might lie about this if he doesn't want his mum to worry)?

Ultimately you have every right to escalate this, but if it means your nephew stays on a team where he feels (potentially) ostracised and bullied, you and your sister may need to make a decision with his wellbeing in mind, even if that results in finding a new team.
posted by fight or flight at 3:59 AM on April 27 [14 favorites]

Did you report it to the welfare officer of the national sports governing body? Or to the police?

Those are your next steps, particularly going to the SGB welfare officer if your club welfare officer has failed to respond: You now have complaints that need investigating both against the team manager, and the club's failing welfare procedures, and reporting to the SGB welfare officer is absolutely the correct next step.
posted by penguin pie at 4:00 AM on April 27 [8 favorites]

I would also screenshot those WhatsApp messages if she's not already.
posted by penguin pie at 4:01 AM on April 27 [23 favorites]

It sounds like it’s time to move to a different neighborhood and remove the nephew from this situation entirely. I know that’s far easier for me to say than it is for the mom to do, but there’s something extremely dysfunctional about this league and I’d be afraid the nephew is being targeted by the manager and the people surrounding him. It’s what I think when I’m watching a horror movie in a small town where the townspeople are creepy and attacking newcomers, “get out! There’s other places to go!”
Yes, screen shot and document all correspondence and contact the league, police, and the school as well. But don’t send the kid to school and practice with these people anymore.
posted by areaperson at 6:26 AM on April 27 [3 favorites]

Good lord how I hate the adults in youth sports.

Your sister should escalate. Your nephew should be offered a different league, or to stay (if his teammates will have him). That guy needs to be thrown down a dry well, with a sack of spiders for company.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:36 AM on April 27 [6 favorites]

I don't have much specifics to offer, but a rule of thumb that has served me well is to "never take advice, legal or otherwise, from an opposing party".

So while the "2 possibilities" offered in the letter may seem reasonable to you or to other people offering you advice, I heartily encourage you to reject the framing of a man who goes around tackling children. Even if he or others are complaining that you escalated the complaint or went to law enforcement, you are free to ignore their opinions on the matter because they don't have your best interests in mind.

I wish you and your family the best while you're trying to navigate all this nonsense.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 6:52 AM on April 27 [27 favorites]

OP, how is your sister doing? Is there any chance she's being swayed by the pressure, or is she standing firm?

(The supposed two possibilities are a completely ridiculous bad-faith intimidation tactic. They leave out the sane, default, and by far most obvious possibility, namely that club management go find a new team manager, same as they would if this one moved away, got sick, lost interest, or were otherwise unavailable. And that is what should have happened. In what normal world is someone who "resigned" due to being unfit for his position allowed to be in charge of, or interfere with, the process to replace him?)
posted by trig at 7:21 AM on April 27 [8 favorites]

He assaulted a child. Sorry I dont have more concrete advice, except to completely ignore this letter and do whatever you can to make that charge stick. If you do feel the need to reply, it comes from your lawyer.
posted by cgg at 7:39 AM on April 27 [5 favorites]

The two possibilities in this letter are completely, crazily nuts.

If someone assaults a child, they should not work with children.

The only thing I think you have done "wrong" is in not reporting this to the police. You may want to do so, saying that you're concerned that this individual is upping the stakes. I mean, you may want to consult legal counsel first but honestly, this is SO BACKWARDS, I hope you know how backwards.

Staffing the rugby league positions is up to the rugby league. If no one will volunteer, they don't have a viable league. Sorry, that's how it works.

For me personally...unless my child were absolutely crazy in love with this activity, I'd find a new activity (or at least a different league.) I know that feels like punishing the child, and I'm not familiar with sports in your area. But this amount of drama is absolutely not worth it. And while I feel like the other kids in the league also need protection, your role is to protect your child and report this - and you have.

The reason I say this is this individual's reasoning is so off, and it sounds like the other parents are so nuts, I just don't see years of joy and good sportsmanship ahead. The times that I've regretted most as a parent is when I've let a bad situation continue in the hopes that something random would change.

Take care, this is a horrible man and a terrible league. I work in children's sport/fitness and this is toxic.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:13 AM on April 27 [15 favorites]

Just for anyone not aware, rugby league is different to rugby union. The links to the RFU (Rugby Football Union) are for rugby union, the OP needs advice for rugby league, which is a similar but not identical sport with a completely different governing body.

Other than that, seconding what everyone else said. The rugby league safeguarding process starts here:

Good luck, and as someone in the UK who loves rugby, please stick it to this obnoxious oaf.
posted by underclocked at 9:13 AM on April 27 [14 favorites]

Whilst I have stayed away from training/games and operated behind the scenes to maintain continuity

This also suggests his “resignation” isn’t real, which means others are protecting him - otherwise how is he “operating behind the scenes”? Absolutely report this higher in the sport.
posted by corb at 12:52 PM on April 27 [7 favorites]

Don't reply to the letter at all and hire a lawyer. He didn't resign if he is still "operating behind the scenes" and he assaulted a child, he should be thankful the police weren't called on him on the spot to arrest him for that tackle.

For the sake of your nephew's mental and physical health, I hope he is removed from this group of people entirely and finds another way to play rugby or sport in a different setting. It is not your sister's job to do anything to ensure the league has adequate staff; if their mismanagement has caused a lack of willing volunteers in a toxic environment, then the league needs to be dissolved or things need to be radically changed, and it's NEVER one parent's job to do that. It's her job to look out for her child's best interests and that is it.

I really agree with the person above who said "screen shot and document all correspondence and contact the league, police, and the school as well. But don’t send the kid to school and practice with these people anymore"
posted by zdravo at 12:58 PM on April 27 [5 favorites]

I agree with everybody above: do not reply to any communication, document the messages, seek legal advice to escalate within the sport, with the police and/or social services, and get the kid out of that toxic environment ASAP.

Your sister can still do all the first things while protecting the child. This abusive, passive-aggressive guy and his enablers are horrible and nobody should have to put up with that, let alone a little kid. Your sister is certainly under no obligation to keep their crappy league going.

In her shoes I'd also be tempted to post the screenshots of this dude's messages on the community FB group or even send them to the local paper, but I'm a bit vindictive when it comes to bullying and DARVO BS.
posted by rpfields at 1:43 PM on April 27 [2 favorites]

Depends on how much stomach you have for this, but: contact the local newspaper, the local TV station, the other community media leaders. Radio? Do you have Nextdoor or the like?
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:44 PM on April 27 [3 favorites]

Others have covered the legal aspects, but I just wanted to chime in on the social aspect... Your sister may be afraid that in doing anything "more", she'll be ostracized and shut out. But that ship has already sailed. Based on the behaviour of the coach AND EVERYONE ELSE in this incident, they are already the outsiders. So now is not the time to make peace and think of her neighbours. Now is the time to protect her child.

Lawyer up and take care.
posted by gakiko at 10:53 PM on April 27 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks so much again for all of these responses. In reply to those that have asked, my sister did report it to the Central RFL safeguarding person (on the advice of PenguinPie and others in my previous question) who was very keen to know all of the details. We are awaiting the outcome of that.
My nephew has not mentioned any bullying from teammates or classmates and is very open about things like that, plus it is something we talk about with him regularly. It doesn’t seem like he is being treated any differently by them and still enjoys playing rugby. I do agree though that they should walk away from it all now.
In any case, he will be moving on to new things in September as he has been awarded a full bursary to attend a prestigious school. They will, however, still be living in the community.

I really appreciate all of your support and kindness.
posted by charlen at 12:13 AM on April 28 [13 favorites]

In reply to those that have asked, my sister did report it to the Central RFL safeguarding person (on the advice of PenguinPie and others in my previous question) who was very keen to know all of the details.

Glad to hear it. I suggest that your sister follows up with them and reports his additional behavior and that he is pressurising them. And congratulations on the full bursary; very happy for him and for your sister.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:09 AM on April 28 [5 favorites]

Submit his letter to the coaches, club safeguarding officer, and Central RFL safeguarding officer. Ask them if they were aware that the former manager had not really resigned, and that he was asking you to leave the club.
posted by metasarah at 11:27 AM on April 28 [7 favorites]

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