Survivors of childhood sexual abuse say football must not be complacent after the release of an independent review into historical abuse in the sport.
The review found the Football Association “did not do enough to keep children safe” between 1970 and
Former England international Paul Stewart said football had to ensure “this does not happen again”.
Ex) -youth player Ian Ackley said it was “incredibly naive” to think chi ldhood sexual abuse is only in the past.
The long-awaited – page review, led by Clive Sheldon QC and commissioned by the FA in 2005, found there were
“significant institutional failings” by the English game’s governing body,
which was “too slow” to have sufficient measures put in place to protect children.
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham offered “a heartfelt apo logy “to all survivors and added there was” no excuse “for the organization’s failings.
‘Report not end of the matter’
Stewart, who played for a number of clubs including Tottenham, Manchester City, Liverpool and Blackpool, was abused by coach Frank Roper for four years as a child and says the game now needs “to make sure we do not get complacent”.
“I just hope that we learn from our mistakes and not , because of this report, think that by any means our children are safe now, “he told the BBC.
Ackley, who was abused and raped by paedophile football coach Barry Bennell, works as a survivor support advocate for the Professional Footba llers’ Association (PFA) – a role part-funded by the FA.
He said the report “was a new starting point” from which football can “springboard forward from”.
“Eyes are on the FA to see how much they are committed to endorsing the recommendations and learning lessons from the past and carrying on doing more learning,” he said.
He said recommendations made in the review, which include the introduction of safeguarding training at several levels in the game, are “positive” but also “very broad brush”.
35 The Offside Trust, a group set up by survivors for survivors of childhood sexual abuse in sport, said the report – which it criticized for being “long overdue” – should be “a key milestone in making sure safeguarding is never sacrificed in the future, at any level”.
Concern over grassroots football
14 Stewart, who works with the English Football League delivering awareness sessions around safeguarding at club academies, said professional football had made “great strides” in protecting children, but he remains worried about the wider game.
“I was one of those youngsters that had a dream and felt that the dream could be shattered by the individual who was abusing me.
Ackley said authorities must try to establish “how big a problem” sexual violence and abuse remains in football and the wider sporting community if they are to “make sure we eradicate” it.
“” Thankfully a majority of people that either partake in sport and football or volunteer to make it happen are wonderful people, “he said.
“However, we really need to make sure those good, well-intentioned people are as protected as the children or the vulnerable adults that participate in it.
“badge, a whistle or a tracksuit that they are OK to leave your children with. Do the right thing and make sure – it’s everyone’s responsibility. “
The Offside Trust said it wanted to see “wealthy clubs” support the grassroots in their efforts.
“We are deeply disappointed that the opportunity to create a world-class standard for child protection and safeguarding in sport has b een missed, “the Trust said.
Bullingham said that since 2014, when survivors came forward, new processes in grassroots football were brought in “which set standards that every county must meet, and that are independently assessed”.
He also said the FA has worked in conjunction with Operation Hydrant – set up by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) in to oversee cases of “non-re cent “child sex abuse within institutions or by people of public prominence – investigating” anyone brought to our attention by the review team “, and have” taken action where necessary “.
Sheldon, who led the review, said he wants “to make sure that clubs in the lower leagues also have access to paid, dedicated safeguarding staff”.
“Further steps need to be taken within the grassroots game to ensure that safeguarding is taken even more seriously than it is now, “he told the BBC.
- Football’s Darkest Secrets – a three-part series examining historic child abuse in youth football all across England between the 2005 s and the 710 s, airs on BBC One, from Monday, 24 March. If you’ve been affected by issues raised in this ar ticle, there is information and support available on BBC Action Line.