Manchester City fullback Benjamin Mendy has been found not guilty on six counts of rape and one count of sexual assault against four young women.
His friend, Louis Saha Matturie, was also found not guilty of three counts of rape against three teenage girls.
Jurors at Chester Crown Court could not reach verdicts on six counts of rape and one of sexual assault, with a retrial to take place for a further count of rape in September.
Mendy, now 28, and Matturie, now 41, were accused of raping women at Mendy’s home in Cheshire, and at a flat in Manchester, in 2021. Both men pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Mendy was first arrested in November 2020, and suspended by Manchester City in August 2021 after being charged with rape.
The court heard that Mendy’s life in football was ‘over’, as he ‘would never escape’ the accusations.
Writing for BBC News, north of England correspondent Nick Garnett said that Mendy would ‘struggle to shake the image portrayed of him in court – a sex-mad, out-of-control, multi-millionaire.’
Football culture needs to reform
Due process is a fundamental aspect of law. The presumption of innocence until proven guilty is a legal principle that has been upheld for decades in Western society.
Article 6 of the Human Rights Act 1988 provides UK citizens with the right to a fair trial. In addition to this, the fundamental right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty is an International Human Right under Article 11 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This does require an element of faith in the legal justice system. We, as citizens, are expected to have confidence in our system and trust that justice is served to the full extent of the law.
With this being said, there is an uncomfortable truth that cannot be ignored regarding football culture, both in the UK and abroad.
it seems as if footballers are, on the whole, untouchable. Several footballers have been accused by women of rape and sexual assault, yet rarely are any of them found guilty.
Mendy is not the first footballer to be accused of sexual misconduct and not face any legal consequences.
PSG and Brazil forward Neymar was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in 2019. The resulting lawsuit was put on hold due to ‘lack of proof’.
In 2017 German media outlet Der Spiegel published a rape allegation by a woman named Kathryn Mayorga (and a subsequent out-of-court settlement) against former Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo.
Arsenal and Ghana midfielder Thomas Partey was publicly accused of rape by a Twitter user. Although unnamed, several newspapers reported that ‘a Premier League footballer is no longer under investigation for rape’.
Many would argue that due process took its course in their respective court cases, but one would be forgiven for smelling a rat. They can’t ALL be innocent, surely?
What are the odds?
It is possible that all three of the aforementioned footballers were accused falsely by their alleged victims.
However, due to movements such as #metoo there has been a shift in society’s social and political climate, where people in positions of power and influence – particularly men – are held to account for their actions against women.
Sexual crimes are not the only things that footballers have been convicted of and seemingly got off ‘scot-free’.
In 2011, Chelsea fullback Marcos Alonso was the driver in an accident that killed a young woman, having been driving at over twice the speed limit and – crucially – with a blood alcohol content level of 0.93 mg/mL. This resulted in a €61,000 fine and a driving ban.
Former Barcelona forward Lionel Messi had a tax fraud charge – which usually carries a prison sentence – changed to a fine of €252,000.
With all these cases, it does paint a picture of footballers being in a sort of untouchable class of people. Crimes that are committed by them have simply been brushed aside
A regular, everyday person who crashed their car whilst under the influence of alcohol and killed a person would rightfully be charged with death by dangerous driving and/or manslaughter.
A mere accusation of rape/sexual assault against a person would be enough to irreparably damage the lives and reputation of a person, yet Partey is still playing for Arsenal and Ronaldo has now become the highest-paid player in the world.
Many see these things as a demonstration of a corrupt element of football culture and influence. It seems footballers can get away with murder – figuratively and literally – if they’re high-profile enough.
Benjamin Mendy, at the time of writing, still has two other charges to deal with, although it looks likely he will escape any further punishment.
His contract at Manchester City expires in June 2023, with the club unlikely to offer an extension due to his unfitness and for PR reasons, due to the nature of the accusations.
In fact, many consider his football career to be over due to this situation, at least in England; it’s possible he could continue his career abroad or back in his native France.