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Charities warn: football must keep children safer

This news post is about 3 years old

​Inquiry tells of arbitrary procedures and poor governance which is putting children at risk of abuse

Scottish football’s governing body must focus on measures to keep children safer, leading charities have warned following a damning report.

An independent inquiry, commissioned by the Scottish Football Association in December 2016 following allegations of historic abuse spanning decades, published its interim findings yesterday.

It calls for a comprehensive culture change across the country’s footballing community.

The report also called for the Scottish FA to work closely with survivors of abuse. In a damning statement, the inquiry found that until very recently, moves to keep young players safe had been “unacceptably slow and random”.

"Even with the greater commitment brought about by the abuse revelations, progress remained “inadequate to meet the challenges of reducing risk and protecting young people now and in the future.”

Mary Glasgow, interim chief executive of Children 1st, which runs Safeguarding in Sport, said: “The SFA can no longer say they did not know what was going on, or what they need to do about it.

“Football is the biggest, most resourced sport in Scotland and must now focus on developing stronger leadership, clearer lines of accountability and measures to give children a greater voice within their clubs and associations to keep children safer.”

Matt Forde, national head of service for NSPCC Scotland said: “This is a disturbing insight into a flawed Scottish football system that has clearly been putting children at significant risk. That’s got to change, without delay.

“There can be no hiding place for child sexual abuse in any sport and it’s right that the SFA has recognised that and begun improvement.

“The courage and dignity shown by those who have come forward and reported abuse is immense. They deserve to see a radical transformation in the game’s safeguarding."

Poor governance may have put some children at risk, states the report. “An over-complex structure, lack of leadership and inadequate governance in relation to child protection has also contributed to risk and general ineffectiveness,” it said.

Ian Maxwell, the Scottish FA chief executive, admitted that there was still much to work to be done. “On behalf of Scottish football I would like to offer my most heartfelt apology to those with personal experience of sexual abuse in our national game,” he said.

However, the report concluded that “learning lessons is insufficient”, adding: “A clear, unequivocal and permanent commitment to ensuring that such past events will not be repeated and that young people who participate in our national game in whatever way are protected from harm must be demonstrated by positive change. The time for such change is overdue.”

The independent review was led by Martin Henry, who was previously national manager of the child sexual abuse prevention charity Stop it Now! Scotland.



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