“An Absolutely Monumental Day” – Abuse Survivor Gary Cliffe
Childhood sexual abuse survivors say football can’t be complacent after the release of an independent review of historical abuse in sports.
The review found that between 1970 and 2005 the football association “did not do enough to ensure the safety of children”.
Former England international Paul Stewart said football needs to make sure “this doesn’t happen again”.
Former youth player Ian Ackley said it was “incredibly naive” to believe that childhood sexual abuse was only a thing of the past.
The long-awaited 710-page review, led by Clive Sheldon QC and commissioned by the FA in 2016, found that there were “significant institutional deficiencies” of the English gaming association, It was “too slow” to take adequate action to protect children.
FA chief Mark Bullingham wholeheartedly apologized to all survivors, adding that there was “no apology” for the organization’s failure.
“Report not the end of the matter”
Stewart, who played for a number of clubs including Tottenham, Manchester City, Liverpool and Blackpool, was abused as a child by coach Frank Roper for four years and says the game now has to “make sure we don’t get complacent”.
“I just hope that we learn from our mistakes and because of this report we don’t believe our children are safe now,” he told the BBC.
Ackley, who was abused and raped by pedophile soccer coach Barry Bennell, works as a survivor assistance lawyer for the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) – a role co-funded by the FA.
He said the report “is a new starting point” from which football can “leap forward”.
“Eyes are on the FA to see how much they are committed to supporting the recommendations and drawing lessons from the past and continuing to learn,” he said.
Ian Ackley works to help other abuse survivors
Ackley said the game needed to remain “vigilant” adding that it was “absolutely naïve to believe that it can’t happen again or that it isn’t happening right now”.
He said the recommendations made in the review, which include introducing safety training at multiple levels of the game, are “positive” but also “very broad”.
Ackley added he was hoping for an independent surveillance organization to oversee the FA’s child protection efforts.
The Offside Trust, a group created by survivors for survivors of child sexual abuse in sport, said the report, which it criticized as “long overdue”, “should be a major milestone in ensuring protection in.” Future will never be sacrificed “. at every level “.
“It’s shocking that we had to wait almost five years for someone to suggest that a little safety training every three years might be a good idea,” the Trust said in a statement.
“It is disappointing not to see anything stronger in terms of reporting requirements.
“The data for this report was arbitrary and there is a narrative that the problem of child sexual abuse in sport is historical. It is not.”
“Unfortunately there are still cases today. We ask the federation and all sports federations to acknowledge that such reports are not the end of the matter.”
Former soccer player David Lean was abused by Bennell.
Lean’s case was referred to the Child Sexual Abuse Review Panel, a joint venture between the National Board of Police and the prosecution, and resulted in Bennell being indicted.
“Time will tell if there is [the report] goes far enough, “he told BBC Radio 5 Live.” It’s good that they picked up on some mistakes and obviously apologized.
“I want this to happen in every sport. I think this is crucial. I want the national governing bodies of other sports to look into this and say, ‘Are we right?’ The FA is a wealthy organization, there is more money in the FA than in many other governing bodies – there are certain things that it can implement.
“This is not all about football. If we ring fence football and make it really safe and tight, some of these offenders will look for other ways to approach children.
“We have to look at this and make sure this is not the end. This is the beginning now.”
Concern for grassroots football
Stewart, who works with the English Football League and runs protection awareness sessions at club academies, said professional football has made “great strides” in protecting children but remains concerned about the wider game.
“Ultimately, where are these people [offenders] The prey was grassroots football, “he said.
“I was one of those youngsters who had a dream and felt that the dream could be destroyed by the person who was abusing me.
“I would still be a little concerned if we look at the bottom line of football and how these people can perform at that level.”
Ackley said authorities must try to determine “how big the problem is” that sexual violence and sexual abuse persists in football and the wider sports community if they are to “make sure we eradicate it”.
“Fortunately, most of the people who either play or volunteer to play sports and football are wonderful people,” he said.
“However, we really need to make sure that these good, well-intentioned people are just as protected as the children or vulnerable adults who participate.
“Don’t just assume that someone with a badge, pipe, or tracksuit can leave their kids okay. 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 endeavors.
“We are deeply disappointed that the opportunity to create a world-class standard for protecting and safeguarding children in sport was missed,” said the Trust.
Bullingham said that since 2016, when survivors came forward, new grassroots processes have been introduced that “set the standards that each county must meet and that are independently assessed”.
He also said the FA was working with Operation Hydrant – established by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) in 2014 to monitor cases of “not new” child sexual abuse in institutions or by persons of public concern – investigation ” Anyone brought to our attention by the review team “and” took action if necessary “.
Sheldon, who led the review, said he wanted “to make sure clubs in the lower leagues also have access to paid, dedicated security guards”.
“Further steps must be taken within the base game to ensure that protection is taken even more seriously than it is now,” he told the BBC.
- Football’s darkest secrets – A three-part series examining historical child abuse in youth football across England between the 1970s and 1990s will air on BBC One starting Monday 22 March.
If you are experiencing any of the issues that this article addresses, information and support is available at BBC Action Line.