According to the findings of an independent review into historical child sexual abuse in the game.”Significant institutional failings” by the Football Association meant it “did not do enough to keep children safe” –
The review, which has taken four years to complete, investigated child sexual abuse in football between 1970 and 2005.
The Football Association has concluded the Generations of young people suffered horrific sexual abuse at many of England’s professional and amateur football clubs due to a wholesale absence of child protection policies, ignorance and naivety, an inquiry.
“The FA acted far too slowly to introduce appropriate and sufficient child protection measures, and to ensure that safeguarding was taken sufficiently seriously by those involved in the game. These are significant institutional failings for which there is no excuse.”
Sheldon said in his 700-page report, the FA did “nothing proactive to address safeguarding and protect children from child sexual abuse in the sport”. There was no guidance, training or general awareness of child protection issues from 1970 to the mid-1990s, and people working in football “did not pick up on the signs of potential abuse”.
and absolved the FA from criticism for those decades in which the sport had no child protection in place for its young players, placing that in the context of general attitudes at the time.
“I do not consider that the FA’s inaction during this period is blameworthy. For most of this period, child abuse was generally seen as something which occurred within the family setting or in residential environments, and not within the world of sport.”
Sheldon added, “their responses were rarely competent or appropriate”, and where there were “warning signs”, such as rumours of inappropriate behaviour, staff often missed them or took no action.
“This was usually out of ignorance or naivety. There was often a feeling that without ‘concrete evidence’ or a specific allegation from a child, nothing could, or should, be done, and so there was a reluctance to investigate or monitor, let alone confront the perpetrator and interfere with his actions . As a result, in many cases, perpetrators were able to hide within football, and use their positions, to ruin the lives of many children.”
The independent review made its first call for evidence in January 2017, writing to all football clubs in England and Wales, amateur and professional, asking for information about allegations between 1970 and 2005.
club staff and officials were generally unaware of child protection issues;
they were not trained in child protection issues;
they did not identify or respond to signs of potential abuse;
and if they were aware of the signs, they did not examine them with curiosity or suspicion.
In March 2019, Manchester City set up a multi-million pound compensation scheme for victims of historical child sexual abuse carried out by former coaches.
The report said that Manchester City senior management were aware of rumours and concerns about Barry Bennell’s conduct in the early 1980s. “The club did not investigate these rumours. It should have done so. The club should also have investigated the arrangements for boys staying at Bennell’s house.”
Crewe Alexandra have reiterated that they were not aware of any sexual abuse by Bennell until 1994 when he was convicted of sexual assault, and did not receive a single complaint about sexual abuse by him.
The Sheldon report said: “It is likely that three directors of Crewe Alexandra FC discussed concerns about Bennell which hinted at his sexual interest in children. There is no evidence that the advice of a senior police officer to the club’s former chairman to keep a ‘watching brief’ on Bennell was heeded. The club should also have ensured that there were appropriate arrangements in place for boys staying overnight at Bennell’s house. The boys should have been spoken to periodically to check that they were being properly cared for. Had such steps been taken, this might have led to boys making disclosures to the club”.
Stoke City were “also aware of rumours about Bennell” during his time associated with the club in the early 1990s, said the report, and steps should have been taken to monitor his activities.
Sheldon’s recommendations are the introduction of safeguarding training at several levels in the game, including all players , young people as well as the FA board and senior management team, be safeguarding officers employed by all Premier League and English Football League clubs.
John Lewis (Analysis Editor Newspresslive )