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Domestic abuser Reece Thompson should not be allowed to play professional football again

Selby Town's decision to sign the 26-year-old, convicted last year of attacking his girlfriend, is dangerous and irresponsible

Reece Thompson (playing for his previous club, York City) has now been signed by Selby Town
Reece Thompson (pictured playing for his previous club, York City) has now been signed by Selby Town Credit:  Simon Davies/Prosports/Shutterstock

“I thought I was going to die, I screamed for him to stop or he would kill me.”

Those words were uttered by the woman who suffered a three-day attack by 26-year-old Reece Thompson - an attack over which he admitted grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and criminal damage of property and was jailed for 40 months last year. 

Now Thompson, a footballer, is out and has been signed by Selby Town. He will continue his sporting career as if nothing had happened. The woman - his former partner, whom he subjected to horrific and degrading acts, whichI won’t detail in full here - has been left with physical scars where he rubbed glass on her body. Not to mention mental trauma, which she has spoken about publicly in an effort to help other victims of domestic abuse.

Now her efforts are being undermined in a very public and hypocritical way.

In August, when Selby played Thompson in a friendly on trial, the club faced such a backlash that they issued an apology. "We were not condoning his actions or making light of his prior conviction, we accept it was a mistake to give the player a trial and wholeheartedly apologise for any upset it has caused,” they said, adding that “the player in question will not be joining our squad now or in the future.”

How hollow those words look now. Little wonder that some angry fans have stated they won’t watch the club in future. 

In a new statement, Selby said “the club does not condone Reece’s actions and we can only imagine the impact upon those involved. 

“For what he has done, Reece has rightly been judged in a court of law and served his sentence,” adding “it is not our place to continue to further punish Reece for his actions.”

"It's not about 'not punishing him’ - it's about your integrity as a community club of Selby and the message it sends out to thousands of women who suffer from domestic violence at the hands of their partners,” tweeted one fan in response to the announcement.

Of course, there is nothing stopping Selby from hiring Thompson and some think he deserves to move on with his life, including the club which added “we believe that a second chance could and should be provided."

But being a footballer is no ordinary job (and many of those wouldn’t hire someone with his conviction). It’s a job where you are in the public eye, with a profile; a hero to supporters, a role model to youngsters. Even in the lower leagues, you are revered. With that comes a responsibility, whether you asked for it or not. It's even more galling given the rise of women's football in recent years, with more girls interested in playing and watching the sport than ever.

“When they trialled him I told my daughters that we wouldn't go if he signed. The club made the right decision and apologised for trialling him. I can't honestly believe they have now gone back on that decision. Feel sick tbh. We love going to the games,” posted one fan. 

Allowing Thompson to resume his football career trivialises domestic violence convictions - a dangerous message, and particularly galling considering the shocking rise in calls to the National Domestic Abuse Hotline during the pandemic. 

What’s more, Thompson hasn’t actually completed his sentence - he still has a 10-year restraining order against him. Oh and he was sent back to prison a month after his release in February this year, reportedly as a result of making light of his crime on Twitter. “Anyone need any goals banging in? Haha,” he posted in one.

By hesitating in the first instance, Selby Town - or some at the club - clearly knew that signing Thompson would be, at best, controversial. At worst, it sends a message to young men that you can abuse women and then simply carry on with your life with few consequences. I doubt his victim can say the same.