Manchester United invited a convicted paedophile to be a special guest at the biggest women’s football match in the club’s history, after failing to conduct the appropriate checks despite his position as a former coach at the club.
Geoff Konopka was the manager of Manchester United Ladies between 1983 and 2001, but was sentenced to four years in prison in 2011 and put on the sex offenders register for a decade after being convicted of offences of indecent assault and gross indecency against girls aged under 16.
However, he was invited by United to attend the women’s team’s fixture against Everton in March 2022, the first WSL match to be held at Old Trafford. He was also featured positively in a profile of United’s history in the women’s game published on the club’s website in July of last year and was name-checked in a “rewind” feature in the matchday programme before Manchester United Women played Aston Villa in December.
United said that as a result of information they had “recently” obtained they would have “no further contact” with Konopka. “Manchester United has recently received information around these convictions, and as a matter of urgency has been in contact with the relevant legal and football authorities to substantiate the facts,” the club said in a statement. “The club has taken appropriate action after receiving this information and will have no further connection with the individual. Manchester United expresses its heartfelt sympathy to the victims and all those affected by these abhorrent crimes.”
According to reports first published in the Times, Konopka’s apparent rehabilitation led to a number of former Manchester United Ladies players to complain to the club. In emails to United’s safeguarding co-ordinator, they expressed their “shock” and “disgust” at seeing him “paraded hand-in-hand with Manchester United” in the promotional article. The club have now removed the content from their website.
Konopka told the Times that he served prison time for offences he said were “historical” and took place about 30 years before his sentencing. He added: “I never, ever entered the dressing room without knocking and never entered before I knew that everyone was changed and decent.”
While the article talks about “Konopka’s Reds” and the programme’s “rewind” feature describes Konopka as the Ladies’ team “manager”, United officials say his role was a voluntary one and that he had no official involvement in the running of the team.