BBC to air football sexual abuse scandal drama 'Floodlights' starring Gerard Kearns and Morven Christie

Gerard Kearns will star as Andy Woodward in Floodlights. (BBC)
Gerard Kearns will star as Andy Woodward in Floodlights. (BBC)

Andy Woodward's revelations about suffering sexual abuse as a young footballer are set to be made into a BBC Two drama starring Gerard Kearns and Morven Christie.

Floodlights will tell the story of former professional footballer Woodward's brave public statement about being abused as a youth player, and the huge impact his story had on the sport across the globe.

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In November 2016, Woodward spoke out about the horrific sexual abuse he had been subjected to by his youth coach, Barry Bennell, prompting many more victims of Bennell and of other youth coaching schemes to come forward and tell their own stories.

Former footballer and victim of abuse Andy Woodward attends a press conference at the launch of The Offside Trust in Manchester on December 5, 2016. 
The Offside Trust was launched to help victims of abuse and has been created by Andy Woodward, Steve Walters and Chris Unsworth, who were all the victims of historic child abuse.
 / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLIS        (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Andy Woodward bravely spoke out about his experiences. (Getty)

It lifted the lid on a huge scandal that was part of the world's most popular sport and revealed the secret torment that some of its stars had been going through since childhood - as well as those forced to abandon the game they loved because of their experiences.

Woodward is set to be played by The Last Kingdom and Shameless star Kearns in the one-off drama for BBC Two, with Jonas Armstrong (Hollington Drive, The Bay), Morven Christie (Lockwood & Co, The A Word), and Steve Edge (Benidorm, The Madame Blanc Mysteries) also starring.

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Former footballer Woodward said: "Since speaking out in 2016 I've wanted to continue to encourage people to talk without fear, to make a change. Floodlights tells my story, which no child should ever have to go through. I hope this film helps to stop abuse in football and in all areas of life."

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02:  Gerard Kearns attends the Theatregoers' Choice Awards Press Launch and Nominations Announcement at Cafe de Paris on December 2, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
Gerard Kearns is best known for starring in Shameless. (Getty Images)

Kearns added: "I am honoured to be playing Andrew Woodward and hope that we have done his story justice."

Floodlights will tell how Woodward progressed from being a boy who loved football to a successful professional player who appeared to have the world at his feet - until he had to cut his career short, haunted by the memories of what happened to him as a child.

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The drama will follow how youth coach Bennell groomed young players and their families by promising to make their dreams come true, wielding a huge amount of power over them.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 24:  Morven Christie arrives for the British Academy Television Craft Awards at The Brewery on April 24, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images)
Morven Christie will also star. (Getty Images)

Matt Greenhalgh, who wrote the drama, said: "I was in the crowd at Maine Road when Bury FC beat my team, Manchester City, 0-1 in 1998. Andy Woodward was playing for Bury.. and was outstanding.

"When his brutal story broke I remember being stunned not only by the magnanimity of his courage, but by how this could happen in our national sport. His horrific revelations were undoubtedly a pivotal moment for football… but also for many, many men.

"Andy’s story more than deserves telling as drama, so that it can keep on telling, and informing the next generation of parents and kids. And I am very proud to be part of his honourable fight to expose those who prey on children in any walk of life."

Floodlights will air on BBC Two this spring.

Watch: Ex-footballers emotional as trust for abuse victims launched