Footballers and sexual consent — what efforts are being made to educate players?

Matt Himsworth
3 min readAug 8, 2022

In this week’s The Athletic Gregg Evans looked into this question in light of a number of high-profile allegations and prosecutions of Premier League football players. The simple answer is that a lot is being done at all ages and we’re very proud to be a small part of the effort to teach young men about respectful and safe communications and warn them about the dire consequences, for everyone, of disrespectful and unsafe behaviours.

Regarding this extract: “For example, inside a meeting room at a Premier League club earlier this year, a hard-hitting talk from a female speaker on respect towards women was met with a round of applause” — I can say that this was Leigh Nicol delivering to Brentford’s first team, Christian Eriksen and all, the lads were a credit to the club and I couldn’t have been prouder of Leigh.

Below is an extract and you can read the whole article here:

Matt Himsworth has worked as a media lawyer in sport for more than 20 years and as part of his work for B5 Consultancy, he provides talks and training sessions on a variety of topics including sexual communication and respect.

This year, he has worked with Premier League and Football League clubs at first-team level. Sessions that he puts on inside football clubs are different to those from LimeCulture, which digs much deeper into the behavioural side of players rather than explaining where the criminal line is.

On his team are two trusted colleagues. Fraser Franks, the ex-footballer who started out at Chelsea and finished up playing for Newport County, provides relevant dressing-room insight, and Leigh Nicol, the Crystal Palace Women’s player, has a unique story to share.

Nicol was the victim of intimate image abuse when, in 2019, her iCloud account was hacked and private videos then appeared on adult websites. It changed her life as she received daily abuse on the subject. She also found out from her friends within the game that she was discussed in male football circles and she now bravely speaks about her trauma during educational talks with academy footballers.

“I know how I was spoken about and that was not nice, but the lads need educating to understand that I am not a porn star. I did not want my videos out there,” she said in an interview with Sky Sports earlier this year.

The abuse continues but this year she has spoken to young players — as well as some first-team players — to provide education, particularly around improving online behaviour, which she believes is as important as addressing other sex-related topics.

“My day-to-day job now is educating young lads,” she says. “At first they are embarrassed because we are talking about sex and everyone giggles when the word is brought up, but afterwards, the respect that they have for me, I just love that.”

Himsworth has had requests from clubs to deliver specific sessions on sexual relationships, too.

“We have three categories that we focus on: being risk averse, respectful and defensive,” he tells The Athletic. “We want the lads to develop safe and secure relationships and we want them to adopt safe behaviours so they’re protecting themselves and not making really bad decisions.”

Pornography, Himsworth says, is a big problem — not just in football but in society too. Part of the conversation he has with players is about explaining the fictional side to the content that is readily available on their smartphones.

“It’s hardcore porn, often aggressive, and it’s developing into an epidemic where it is going mainstream,” he says. “There are a lot of people out there who are starting to believe that porn is real life.

“A quote that we use in our sessions is, ‘Trying to live your sex life like a porn movie is like trying to run your business like the Peaky Blinders’. The boys are not going to think for a minute to start cutting people’s ears off in a business feud, so we want them to think like that when it comes to porn, and how group sex is not normal.”

There are often time limits set on the session and obstacles to overcome when addressing senior players, but “speaking in their language” and providing relevant, engaging information is crucial. Himsworth speaks highly about professionals at individual clubs who have supported his work.

Many conversations around education come back to the word “respect”.

The B5 Consultancy works closely with clubs to help make players better individuals and its classes focus on a wide range of other topics, too.



Matt Himsworth

Lawyer and Director at B5 Consultancy