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Floodlights — air date, trailer, cast interviews, plot, first looks, and all about the football abuse drama

Gerard Kearns stars as brave footballer Andy Woodward in BBC2 drama Floodlights.
Gerard Kearns stars as brave footballer Andy Woodward in BBC2 drama Floodlights. (Image credit: BBC)

Floodlights on BBC2 is a drama that shows the real-life traumas of Andy Woodward, the brave man whose revelations about the sexual abuse he suffered as a youth footballer lifted the lid on a national scandal. After Andy spoke out, it quickly emerged that other young footballers had suffered similar abuse. 

The adult Andy is played by Gerard Kearns (Shameless, The Last Kingdom) although the story follows Andy from going from a young, innocent lad (played by Max Fletcher) who seemed destined to become a professional footballer to the man no longer able to ignore the memories of the abuse that cut short his career and lifelong dreams. Jonas Armstrong stars as the evil, abusing and now thanfully convicted former Crewe Alexandra coach Barry Bennell, while Morven Christie and Steve Edge play Andy's parents Jean and Terry.

Here's everything you need to know about Floodlights on BBC2...

Gerard Kearns as Andy Woodward with parents Jean and Terry, played by Morven Christie and Steve Edge.

Gerard Kearns as Andy Woodward with parents Jean and Terry, played by Morven Christie and Steve Edge. (Image credit: BBC)

Floodlights release date

Floodlights is a feature-length factual drama that is set to air on BBC2 on Tuesday May 17 at 9pm, and it runs for 80 minutes. Viewers will be able to catch the drama on BBCiPlayer too. We'll update here with any international release date in 2022.

Is there a trailer for Floodlights?

Yes a trailer for Floodlights has just been released by the BBC, showing Gerard Kearns, Jonas Armstrong and Morven Christie in their roles, plus the football action featuring a younger Andy Woodward. Take a look at the trailer below...

Floodlights plot 

Floodlights will show how in November 2016 former professional footballer Andy Woodward, who once played for Bury FC and Sheffield Utd, found the courage to go public about the horrific sexual abuse he was subjected to by his youth coach, paedophile Barry Bennell. 

His testimony encouraged hundreds more men who had suffered abuse in similar circumstances, many at the hands of Bennell himself, to come forward, exposing a deeply hidden scandal at the heart of our national game. 

The drama follows Andy’s life, from his childhood as a passionate footballer with the world at his feet, to the man who could no longer bury the truth. It also examines how Bennell was able to groom young players and their families as he held the power to make their dreams come true. 

Screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh recalls: “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.”

Andy Woodward (Gerard Kearns) looks on from the stands while at Bury FC.

Andy Woodward (Gerard Kearns)  looks on from the stands while at Bury FC. (Image credit: BBC)

Floodlights cast — Gerard Kearns on playing footballer Andy Woodward 

Gerard Kearns, who plays Andy Woodward in Floodlights, found fame as Ian Gallagher in the hit Channel 4 series Shameless

On his Floodlights role, Gerard says: "It felt like a massive responsibility. After everything he’s been through, I’ve got such admiration for Andy. When I met him, I said, ‘You’re really brave,’ and he said, ‘I’m a warrior.’ And he is."

He's gone on to star in The Town, The Smoke and award-winning mini series Chernobyl. He played Halig in The Last Kingdom and Tommy Marshall in Netflix period drama The English Game, also about football.

Gerard Kearns as footballer Andy Woodward in BBC2 drama Floodlights.

Gerard Kearns playing pro footballer Andy Woodward in Floodlights. (Image credit: BBC)

Gerard Kearns stars as footballer Andy Woodward in BBC2 drama Floodlights.

Former Shameless star Gerard Kearns gives an emotional performance playing Andy Woodward. (Image credit: BBC)

Max Fletcher plays the young Andy Woodward

Max Fletcher is the young actor who plays the teenage Andrew in some very challenging scenes in Floodlights.

Gerard Kearns says of Max: "He did an absolutely fantastic job playing the young Andrew as that rabbit in the headlights in some really upsetting scenes."

Jonas Armstrong adds: "I did so many difficult scenes with Max. I remember, one day, his [on-set] chaperone said to me, ‘Max is worried about you, because you look like you are struggling’ – he was looking after me! To be so conscious and hyper-aware of what was going on, for a lad his age, was remarkable."

Max Fletcher as the young Andy Woodward in his youth team when the abuse started.

Max Fletcher (2nd from right) as the young Andy Woodward in his football youth team when the abuse started. (Image credit: BBC)

Max Fletcher playing the young Andy Woodward.

Max Fletcher as the young Andy Woodward going home from football training. (Image credit: BBC)

Who else is starring in Floodlights?

The Bay star Morven Christie also appears in Floodlights, playing Andy's mum Jean. Morven previously starred in The A Word, Grantchester, Hunted, The Replacement and Twenty Twelve. Later in 2022, Morven will be starring in Netflix supernatural drama Lockwood & Co.

Morven’s co-star from The Bay, Jonas Armstrong will also star as convicted coach Barry Bennell. You might recognise him from Robin Hood, Hollington Drive, Ripper Street, Prisoner’s Wives and The Drowning. Benidorm star Steve Edge is also in the cast as Andy's dad Terry. 

Andy's manager at Bury FC was Neil Warnock, who is played by Antony Byrne. Mark Holgate and Neil Bell play the detectives investigating.

Jonas Armstrong as evil abusing football coach Barry Bennell.

Jonas Armstrong as evil abusing football coach Barry Bennell. (Image credit: BBC)

Floodlights stars Jonas Armstrong and Morven Christie also appeared in The Bay together.

Floodlights stars Jonas Armstrong and Morven Christie also appeared in The Bay together. (Image credit: ITV)

Antony Byrne as Neil Warnock, who was Andy's last manager at Bury FC.

Antony Byrne as Neil Warnock, who was Andy's last manager at Bury FC. (Image credit: BBC)

Jonas Armstrong on playing evil predator Barry Bennell

Jonas Armstrong told us: "I was really nervous, but I hope Floodlights breaks down that wall, and makes it easier for people to talk about this. I was trying to find that balance, where it would be believable that parents would trust this guy. If I played him as an overtly grotesque character, you’re going to think, ‘I wouldn’t go near that fella!’ So it’s finding the charisma, but also showing that demon.

"He was [outwardly] charming and disarming, and people gravitated towards him. This is why he was enabled to invite children around to his house, and why the parents did not ask any questions."

Jonas Armstrong had worries about playing a sex predator such as Barry Bennell.

Jonas Armstrong had big worries about playing a sex predator such as Barry Bennell, but gives an amazing performance. (Image credit: BBC)

Morven Christie on playing Andy's mum Jean

Morven told us: "The first time football coach Barry Bennell says, ‘Can Andy come and stay over [at my house]?’, Jean kind of goes, ‘Oh, that’s a bit of an odd idea! But of course, yes – sorry, I’m being daft!’ He did things that made normal concerns seem both fine and silly at the same time. 

"Andy’s parents don’t find out about what happened to him until much later. And so, in a way, you could just play it innocently, just like loving parents, and be quite uncomplicated about it.

"In Floodlights, it’s impossible for you to look away from the tenderness of this soul, and what’s happening to him. There was a weird sort of magic on set, a sort of momentum that was happening just by us all being in the same room and having the same intention."

Morven Christie and Steve Edge as Andy's parents Jean and Terry with their son at training.

Morven Christie and Steve Edge as Andy's parents Jean and Terry with their son after a match. (Image credit: BBC)

Morven as Jean, with Terry in the background as Andy (Gerard Kearns) deals with his torment.

Morven as Jean, with Terry in the background as Andy (Gerard Kearns) deals with his torment. (Image credit: BBC)

More about the real Andy Woodward whose story is told in Floodlights

Much of what is depicted in the BBC2 drama Floodlights comes from Andy Woodward's book Position Of Trust.

Like many football-mad teenagers, Andrew ‘Woody’ Woodward dreamed of becoming a professional player. So when Crewe Alexandra youth coach Barry Bennell picked him out as a budding talent, Andrew and his parents were over the moon. However, beneath Bennell’s easygoing charm lurked a predatory paedophile who would sexually abuse Andrew for years, and he did the same thing to many other young players at other clubs. 

Andrew did have a pro football career, playing for clubs including Sheffield United before retiring in 2003. Thirteen years later he took the brave decision to go public about the abuse, rocking the football world and encouraging other victims to come forward. 

The real Andy Woodward has given his full support to the film and stressed its importance, saying: “Since speaking out in 2016 I 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.”

The real Andy Woodward, here years after his football career was over, whose harrowing story is told in Floodlights.

The real Andy Woodward, here years after his football career was over, whose harrowing story is told in Floodlights. (Image credit: BBC)

Nicholas Cannon
Nicholas Cannon

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus Whattowatch.com. I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.