The Football Association has apologised to the survivors of the historical child sexual abuse scandal in football between 1970 and 2005. An independent report found that there were ‘significant institutional failings’ by the FA.
Clive Sheldon QC led the review, and it found that the FA did not do enough to keep children safe in football academies and youth systems.
The FA chief executive Mark Bullingham acknowledged the publication of the findings, and he addressed the survivors, apologising to them, labelling it a ‘dark day for the beautiful game’. He also stated that it was ‘deeply upsetting that more was not done by the game at the time, to give [the survivors] the protection [they] deserved’, suggesting an entire absence of child protection policies in place.
This independent inquiry resulted from hundreds of phone calls being made to a hotline set up by the NSPCC, which was explicitly dedicated to footballers who wanted to report or discuss past sexual abuse that they experienced. This then resulted in several investigations taking place that were led by different police forces.
Sheldon’s report revealed that child protective guidance was ‘not something which was happening widely within sport’, showing how a lack of DBS checks for people working with children in sports can be detrimental and can allow abuse to go unnoticed.
Youth coaches operate within a regulated activity and are eligible for the highest level DBS check. This does not go far enough, though, as DBS checks are only valid until they are issued. Therefore, checks should be updated regularly to ensure the most protection for children.