FA accused of failing to keep children safe following report into sexual abuse

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Fa Accused Of Failing To Keep Children Safe Following Report Into Sexual Abuse Fa Accused Of Failing To Keep Children Safe Following Report Into Sexual Abuse
Ian Ackley, © PA Wire/PA Images
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By Jamie Gardner and Mark Staniforth, PA

The Football Association has been accused of “truly shocking” failings that cost young people their childhoods following the publication of the Sheldon Review into historical sexual abuse within the game.

Survivors’ groups accused the FA of neglecting a course of action that should have been “blindingly obvious” in response to the emerging scandal, and DCMS chief Julian Knight said the governing body has “grave questions to answer”.

Meanwhile, one abuse survivor described the scope and findings of the report itself as “dilute as Vimto for two-year olds”.

The review was published on Wednesday and looked at abuse between 1970 and 2005, what the FA knew and did about it, and recommendations for improving safeguarding in the future.

Serial abuser Barry Bennell was described by one judge as ‘the devil incarnate’ (PA)

Ian Ackley, who was raped hundreds of times by serial abuser Barry Bennell between 1979 and 1983, hoped the review would go further and recommend independent, external oversight of the FA’s child protection measures.

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“It’s a little disappointing that there aren’t more specific recommendations,” he told the PA news agency.

“If I was to describe it loosely, it’s probably as dilute as Vimto for a two-year-old. He (Sheldon) could have been far more punchy and far braver. I get why he has taken the line he has, and it’s generally positive and it gives us that foundation to springboard forward from.

“I guess the big question now is, have the FA the will to do it and how do they do that? So eyes on the FA.”

DCMS select committee chairman Knight described the FA’s failings as “truly shocking” and said the governing body has “grave questions to answer”.

Knight said: “The failure of the FA to keep children safe is truly shocking. There can be no excuses for the critical delays to act or provide guidance to those working on child protection.

“We could be looking at the biggest safeguarding scandal in football’s history.

 

“I am shocked by the scale of the abuse that has been identified and the acknowledgement that, though it’s not possible to know the precise number of incidents as most are not reported, it was clear there was a considerable amount of abuse.

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“The FA has grave questions to answer about its past record and needs to reassure parents about what it’s doing now to ensure that children are being kept safe from predators.”

A lawyer representing over 40 football abuse survivors said the report underscored the extent to which young people were “failed” by those in authority positions in the game.

Kim Harrison, a specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said: “It is clear from the findings of the report that those in positions of power within football failed children in their supervision and care and for our clients nothing can bring back their lost childhoods blighted by abuse.

“Survivors feel failed by the FA and the various football clubs involved and this report and the way the FA have handled matters has left them feeling further let down.”

The Offside Trust also criticised the findings, calling them “blindingly obvious” and adding: “We are deeply disappointed that an opportunity to create a world-class standard of child protection and safeguarding in sport has been missed.”

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The Trust was particularly critical of the sluggish manner in which the FA responded to the initial reports of widespread historical abuse.

The statement added: “The recommendations are ones which would have been blindingly obvious to anyone within a few weeks of the scandal breaking.

“The FA should have immediately made these most basic of changes around training, awareness, spot-checks and transparency without waiting for a 700-page report.”

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