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AFC Fylde manager James Rowe charged with sexual assault after Chesterfield suspension

AFC Fylde manager James Rowe has been charged with sexual assault after being handed a suspension during his time at Chesterfield.

In a statement published on Wednesday afternoon, Derbyshire Constabulary say that in January this year, officers received a report of a man having allegedly sexually assaulted a woman in Chesterfield in November 2021.

The police statement read: “James Rowe, 39, of Breaston, in Derby, has now been charged and is due to appear before magistrates at Chesterfield Justice Centre on Monday, November 7.”

There had been some anger towards the Football Association for failing to safeguard women in football with Rowe being allowed to take another job not too long after he left the Spireites by ‘mutual consent’ in February amid allegations of misconduct.

Sportsmail claim that he was got rid of for sexual indecency with Chesterfield issuing a ‘letter of concern’ to the FA after he was appointed manager of AFC Fylde in March, with a warning that he ‘posed a potential danger to women’, though this allegation is denied by Rowe.

Rowe was suspended by the Derbyshire outfit on the 24th of January and subsequently left by ‘mutual consent’ two weeks later following what the club described as ‘allegations of misconduct’.

It was just a month after that he was appointed manager at National League North outfit AFC Fylde on a three-year contract.

AFC Fylde manager James Rowe charged with sexual assault after Chesterfield suspension

Fans were kept in the dark for a while over Chesterfield’s decision to suspend Rowe, sitting second in the National League at the time and had gone as far as the third round of the FA Cup, losing at Chelsea.

Sportsmail said they had launched an investigation to find out just why and uncovered some serious details which in turn raises serious issues about the safety of women in football and the sport’s handling of complaints involving alleged sexual harassment.

There were allegations against Rowe, stating that he exposed himself to a female on Chesterfield FC premises, something he denies.

Fylde had also been accused of failing to seek references from the Spireites about Rowe before naming him as their new boss him despite claiming to have conducted due diligence.

Chesterfield warned in a letter to the FA that James Rowe was a potential danger to women in football, and the governing body responding that the alleged victim’s age meant the case did not raise safeguarding issues.

Chesterfield called for a formal review of the FA’s safeguarding policies.

A source with knowledge of the case told Sportsmail earlier this year: ‘Serious allegations have been made and there are concerns about whether it is appropriate for him to continue working in football until all investigations have been completed.

‘The FA claim that it is not a safeguarding issue as the alleged victim is over 18, but young adults can still be vulnerable, particularly women in a macho, male environment.

‘In their press release announcing his appointment, Fylde claimed they did due diligence on his departure from Chesterfield, but as far as I’m aware they didn’t contact anyone at the club.’

In a statement on Rowe being appointed by Fylde back in March, Fylde chairman David Haythornthwaite said: ‘We have done our due diligence on James, and while it is clear he is no shrinking violet, we are confident that James will bring a winning mentality to the club, which we all want.

‘Over the last four days, we have had several meetings with James both face to face and, in my case, as I am away on business, over Teams (a text and video messaging app). We have all been struck by James’s openness, burning ambition and desire to win.’

While the FA have turn down an opportunity to speak, sources at Wembley told Sportsmail they were aware of the case and had conducted preliminary inquiries.

One source said the FA had been waiting for other investigations to finish before formally opening their own, and questioned whether the case would raise safeguarding issues due to the age of the alleged victim.

Rowe denies all the allegations, and told Fylde there was no substance to it before linking up with them as their new manager. He declined to comment when asked by Sportsmail, though claims Chesterfield sacked him due to of a fall-out with a male member of the club’s executive team.

Sources at Fylde suggest that they tried to get in contact with Chesterfield to find out why Rowe was suspended, going on to appoint, though claimed Chesterfield refused to get back to them on the grounds that they had signed a non-disclosure agreement with their former manager before his departure.

Fylde staff began their own inquiries and in turn got the green light to appoint.

Chesterfield’s internal investigation found the club satisfied there was enough evidence against Rowe to terminate his stay at the Technique Stadium.

Rowe was axed in a previous job as assistant academy director at West Ham in 2015, being disciplined by the club following a formal complaint regarding his treatment of young players, though on this occasion there was no allegations of sexual misconduct or physical violence.

AFC Fylde hit back at the Daily Mail over an article they wrote about manager James Rowe as questions remain on their safeguarding of women.

They said: “The story in yesterday’s Mail attempts to paint Fylde as a club that does not care for the welfare or safety of its women employees and as one who failed to do its due diligence in this respect regarding James Rowe’s appointment as their manager in March this year. This could not be further from the truth.

“Unfortunately, certain people from Chesterfield have been touting this story around various media outlets for some time, and the Club Chairman, David Haythornthwaite has had to field a huge amount of questions over the past few weeks from National newspapers, with most of them accepting the explanation and reasoning given but, for whatever reason Matt Hughes from the Mail hasn’t, and despite being given assurances that we would be able to give an official club comment if the story ran, we weren’t, which we suppose suits their ‘headline agenda’.

“The article is misleading and inaccurate in so many ways. It seems clear that Chesterfield’s intention is to try and justify their actions and smear James’ name.

“Firstly, they claim Fylde didn’t do their due diligence and did not contact Chesterfield for a reference. This is flawed in many ways. Firstly, as Chesterfield are fully aware, James and themselves had reached a compromise agreement regarding his departure, which means neither party were able to discuss with anyone else the terms of that agreement. Once James made us aware of that agreement, we knew it would be futile calling them for such a reference.

“Secondly, however, we did make contact with other people in the game that have worked with James, including our own Rowe, Danny, who has been associated with Fylde for many years and was at Chesterfield throughout this period. He is someone whose opinion we trust and value, and as we said when we announced James’ appointment, he spoke very highly of him. We obviously also spoke to James on several occasions and met with both him and his wife together.

“Since Chesterfield seemed to have breached their duty of trust with James, this has enabled us to talk to other sources regarding the internal disciplinary hearing, and we believe that there is no record anywhere regarding the allegations in these articles.

“As for Chesterfield claiming they have written a letter to the FA questioning James Rowe’s behaviour and calling for ‘a formal review of safeguarding policies’, we find that hard to believe, as we have never been contacted by the FA on this matter, and if not true, is a pretty cheap shot.

“With regards to the further article published in this morning’s Mail, we would comment as follows. Firstly, James Rowe has received no ‘personal treatment’, with its obvious insinuations from a female physio. The article purports to suggest that there are a bevy of ‘young female physios on internships at the club’, and again, this is totally untrue as we only have one who works on a daily basis under close supervision of the Head of Medical, Gareth Thomas. Both these people are more than happy to provide whatever evidence is needed in regard to this matter. As for not informing AFC Fylde staff, and that they were not aware of these allegations against James, we would simply refer the Mail to the AFC Fylde statement on the night of James’ appointment. No-one associated with the Club in any way was not aware of the situation.

“Regarding the criticism about failing to respond to the complaint about a ‘sex offender’, again this is totally untrue, and in fact, a fabricated lie. The Club were made aware of the person in question after a complaint from a mother who was concerned when she heard he was attending Fylde matches. The Club met with the mother in question in early May – however, before doing so, we consulted with Lancashire Police, who have a special department that deals with these matters, we spoke to Mark Ives at The National League and to the FA, expressing our concerns and asking advice on what we should do. After meeting with the complainant, she was satisfied that we were aware and that we were, based on the advice given by the aforementioned bodies, doing the right thing.

“To try and link this incident with other incidents as the Mail has done, without allowing the Club to give any formal response or attempting to interview the individuals in question, is nothing short of despicable, and we expect everyone involved and the Club itself to receive a full and formal apology from The Daily Mail.

“The Club will be making no further comments on this situation other than to say that we stand fully behind James Rowe and his family at this very difficult time for them.”


A sexual assault is any sexual act that a person did not consent to, or is forced into against their will. It is a form of sexual violence and includes rape (an assault involving penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth), or other sexual offences, such as groping, forced kissing, child sexual abuse, or the torture of a person in a sexual manner.

Sexual violence or assault can happen to anyone of any age.


Sexual assault is an act that is carried out without a person’s active consent. This means they did not agree to it.

Consent means saying “yes” to what happened.

Being intoxicated, not being asked, saying nothing, or saying yes to something else, is not consent. Being in a relationship or married to someone is not consent.

Sexual assault is a crime

It is not uncommon for the person being sexually assaulted to have no physical injuries or signs of their assault. But sexual assault is still a crime and can be reported to the police in the same way as other crimes.

The Crime Survey for England and Wales for the year ending March 2021 showed that the police recorded 148,114 sexual offences, encompassing rape (55,696 cases) and sexual assault, and also sexual activity with children.

Most sexual assaults are carried out by someone known to the victim. This could be a partner, former partner, relative, friend or colleague. The assault may happen in many places, but is usually in the victim’s home or the home of the perpetrator (the person carrying out the assault).

If you’ve been spiked

Spiking is when alcohol or drugs have been put in your drink without your permission.

If your drink has been spiked or you’ve been injected with an unknown substance, and you think you’ve been sexually assaulted, go to your nearest sexual assault referral centre (SARC) for specialist care and support.

If you’ve been spiked but have not been sexually assaulted, call 111 for urgent medical advice if you have any symptoms you’re worried about.

Also, contact the police to tell them what happened.

Find more information and advice about spiking on the Frank website

Looking for forensic evidence

If you have been sexually assaulted, you don’t have to have a forensic medical examination. However, it can provide useful evidence if the case goes to court. It’s possible to collect evidence, such as DNA, evidence of spiking and loose hair as part of the medical evidence.

You can decide at any stage if you would like a forensic medical examination. However, the sooner this takes place, the more chance of collecting evidence. If the assault occurred more than 7 days ago, it is still worth asking for advice from a SARC or the police about a forensic medical examination if you would like to have one.

Usually the doctor or nurse will take the samples, such as swabs from anywhere you have been kissed, touched or had anything inserted. They might also take urine and blood samples and occasionally hair, depending on the information you provide about the assault, and also retain some clothing and other items (if they do they will give you new clothes).

You can ask to do your own swabs. Or you can choose to have only some samples, for example urine or clothing.

It’s important to have the swabs taken as soon as possible, as forensic evidence will wear and wash away.

If you haven’t decided whether to involve the police, any forensic medical evidence that’s collected will be stored at the SARC. This allows you time to decide if you do want to report the assault..

In some SARCs you can choose to have your samples processed without identifying you (in case the person who assaulted you has assaulted someone else).

If you report the assault to the police

If you do decide to report it to the police, a police officer specially trained in supporting victims of sexual assault will talk to you and help to make sure you understand what’s going on at each stage.

The police will investigate the assault. You will be offered a forensic medical examination and will be asked to make a statement about what happened (what you say is written down, which you check and sign). The police will pass their findings, including the forensic report, to the Crown Prosecution Service, who will decide whether the case should go to trial.

To find out more about what’s involved in an investigation and trial, you can: 

Talk to an ISVA, supporting police officer or charity such as Rape Crisis

Find out more on GOV.UK about going to court as a victim or witness

Download a booklet called From Report to Court: A handbook for adult survivors of sexual violence, produced by the charity Rights of Women


Your details will be kept as confidential as possible. However, if there’s a police investigation or criminal prosecution linked to the assault, any material relating to it is “disclosable”. This means it may have to be produced in court.

If there is no investigation or prosecution, information about you won’t be shared with other services without your permission, unless there’s a concern that you or anyone else is at risk of serious harm.

Supporting a victim of sexual assault

Advice for relatives and friends of someone who has been sexually assaulted includes: 

Believe what they’re saying and tell them this.

Listen to the person, but don’t ask for details of the assault. Don’t ask them why they didn’t stop it. This can make them feel as though you blame them.

Offer practical support, such as asking them if they would like you to go with them to appointments.

Respect their decisions – for example, whether or not they want to report the assault to the police.

Bear in mind they might not want to be touched. Even a hug might upset them, so ask first. If you’re in a sexual relationship with them, be aware that sex might be frightening, and don’t put pressure on them to have sex.

Don’t tell them to forget about the assault. It will take time for them to deal with their feelings and emotions. You can help by listening and being patient.

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