Review: BBC's harrowing drama Floodlights should open up debate on football's darkest secrets

The worldwide popularity of the Premier League has – to an extent – hidden football’s deep-seated problems from view, but this week has shown they certainly haven’t been eradicated.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 20th May 2022, 5:00 pm

Apart from pitch invasions and both fans and player assaulting each other, Floodlights (BBC2, Tues, 9pm) was a harrowing reminder that “the best league in the world” and the excitement and drama of the play-offs can’t hide the rot which is at the heart of much of football.

Focusing on Andy Woodward, the former professional footballer who was one of the first to blow the whistle on the sexual abuse of youth players, this was an effectively simple and harrowing story.

Barry Bennell – played by a charming, yet sleazy Jonas Armstrong – was a youth coach at Crewe Alexandra, who abused dozens of young boys in his care during the 1980s.

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Max Fletcher (centre) as Andy Woodward in Floodlights

Using the carrot of lucrative professional contracts and the stick of expulsion from the team, Bennell coerced youngsters into appalling acts of abuse. Parents were seduced by the prospect of financial security, clubs by successful teams on the pitch, and warning signs were seemingly ignored.

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Max Fletcher is terrific as the young Woodward, never more so than when Bennell – having insisted his boys train on Christmas Day – makes his advances again.

"Do you have to tonight?” asks Andy. “It’s Christmas.”

Chris and Rosie Ramsey hosted the first episode of their new chat show on BBC2 this week

Like the the rest of the drama, it’s a simple line that hits incredibly deep, speaking of innocence stolen, dreams crushed and futures wrecked.

If nothing else, Floodlights should serves as a salutary warning to look deeper than the win/loss column.

The Chris and Rosie Ramsey Show (BBC2, Mon, 9pm) had late-night Friday written all over it, but for some reason went out on a Monday. Comedian Chris and wife Rosie have a podcast looking at family life, and they’ve now translated it to TV. A bit like a dinner party which only starts to get fun when the booze begins to flow.

The Rising (Sky Max, Fri, 9pm) is a strange little thing. The concept sees Neve, a moto-crossing 19-year-old with family issues, waking up floating in a lake, before she gradually realising she has actually died. It’s a high concept but filmed in such a way that it seems more suited to a late-afternoon slot on CBBC.