EXCLUSIVE: The world’s richest and most watched sporting competition, the English Premier League, has kicked off this month with delighted fans once again back in stadiums across the UK. But while goals are being scored and celebrated there also remains the definitely-not-small matter of star Everton midfielder, Gylfi Sigurdsson, being arrested over child sexual abuse charges which the local scandal-hungry Fleet Street media pack can’t report about because of controversial censorship laws. Serkan Ozturk reports.
The fans are back in their tens of thousands with chants filling the air of stadiums across England as the Premier League kicked off its latest season after 18 months of matches played behind closed doors because of the Covid pandemic.
But while all the goals and skills are now being loudly celebrated, a dark cloud hangs over the world’s richest and most popular sporting league following the arrest of one of its star players for child sexual abuse crimes, just a matter of weeks before the season commenced on August 13.
After some chatter in July across social media about a high-profile Premier League footballer being possibly involved in sex crimes, police in the northern English city of Manchester released a short statement confirming the arrest of a man in his early 30s.
“Officers arrested a 31-year-old man on Friday 16 July 2021 on suspicion of child sex offences,” said a statement released by police in mid-July.
“He is on police bail pending further enquiries.”
A statement from Premier League club Everton on Monday, July 19 meanwhile only confirmed with the barest of details that it was one of their players who had been arrested.
“Everton can confirm it has suspended a First-Team player pending a police investigation,” the statement from the football club reads.
“The Club will continue to support the authorities with their inquiries and will not be making any further statement at this time.”
The scant details were enough though for most football fans and armchair detectives to put two and two together almost immediately.
Everton FC – based in the port city of Liverpool – only has two 31-year-olds in their entire football squad.
One is the Icelandic attacking midfielder, Gylfi Sigurdsson.
The other, English defensive midfielder, Fabian Delph.
With Delph having been named on the substitutes bench for a pre-season friendly when news of the arrest broke out, all eyes naturally fell on the married Sigurdsson who was missing for the match.
Arguably Iceland’s greatest ever or most influential footballer having led his country to their first international tournaments, Sigurdsson was then reported as being the footballer in question by media in his country of birth.
He has previously played for other Premier League clubs, Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea, where he is viewed as a club legend.
There are claims in Liverpool and across Merseyside that Sigurdsson allegedly sent several social media or text messages to the underage girl. It has been claimed the alleged victim in the case is 15-years-old.
Sigurdsson’s wife deleted her own Instagram account soon after the club statement from Everton was released and then reportedly moved out of the home she shared with her husband.
It has been reported Everton then moved Sigurdsson to a “safe house” somewhere in Merseyside and are providing “24/7 support to the player” until the police investigation is completed.
It is unclear exactly what kind of sexual assault charges Sigurdsson may possibly be facing or how many.
Nevertheless, it is claimed the footballer “strenuously denies” all the accusations.
He is the latest Premier League footballer to be arrested over child sex crimes, just five years after former Sunderland and England winger, Adam Johnson, was jailed for “sexual activity with a 15-year-old Sunderland fan”.
Meanwhile, it’s been reported that some of Sigurdsson’s teammates are unhappy that authorities have not publicly named him.
Everton have started the season under new manager, Rafa Benitez, with one win and one draw from their first two matches. Sigurdsson has been noticeably absent for both.
A source cited in the The Sun tabloid was quoted as saying:
“The players are highly agitated, they are not happy to be dragged into it,” the source said.
“Senior Everton players have been contacted day and night by other Prem stars, all seeking details.”
Local UK laws don’t allow for the identification of alleged sex offenders if doing so may identify the victim.
However, as Sigurdsson is not related to the victim in this case or her parent or guardian, it is unclear as to why police have not named the footballer following his arrest.
Censorship laws in the UK have previously been used though by other celebrity footballers when they’ve been in some hot water or serious bother.
Former Manchester United star, Ryan Giggs, notoriously and successfully used a “super injunction” to prevent reporting of a seven-month extra-marital affair he carried out with former Big Brother contestant, Imogen Thomas .
The super injunctions are widely referred to as SLAPP suits, because they are viewed as a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP).
The chief reason a powerful person or celebrity may use such a lawsuit is to usually censor, intimidate and silence critics as well as prevent public interest journalism.
The issue of the UK’s censorship laws came to prominence and public attention when Giggs launched legal action against Twitter in 2011 after a user of the social media site posted details about the super injunction Giggs had in place.
A month after taking out the legal action against Twitter, it was then revealed Giggs had also carried out a eight-year-long sexual affair with his own brother’s wife.
Keeping with his sterling image as a ‘great guy’, Giggs just this year lost his position as manager of Wales’ national football team after being charged with a string of domestic violence offences and assault charges against his ex-partner and her sister.
“Innocent until proven gylfi”: A popular phrase amongst football fans since the arrest of Everton star Gylfi Sigurdsson (Image: Twitter / Supplied)
Although the usually verbose British media and Fleet Street tabloid pack have been forced into legal silence once again regarding the serious charges Sigurdsson may possibly be facing, the same can’t be said for countless rival football fans across Liverpool and the UK.
Social media has been flooded with posts and memes naming the Icelandic footballer as being the alleged perp in question.
Since Sigurdsson’s arrest, somewhat unsurprisingly many football fans have now taken to chanting phrases such as the punny “innocent before proven gylfi” and the altogether more succinct “Filthy Sigurdsson”.