The inquiry, which covered a quarter century from 1970 to 1995, criticised the FA for “significant institutional failings” having taken until 2000 to make serious progress with a culture of safeguarding.
“The FA acted far too slowly to introduce appropriate and sufficient child protection measures,” it read. “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.”
The report found that “mistakes were still made” even after May 2000, when the FA launched a comprehensive child protection policy and programme.
James Kendall, the FA’s director of football development, echoed FA chief executive Mark Bullingham’s label that the extensive findings of the report marked a “dark day for football,” but added: “We have put in place significant measures in recent years. We are confident of the measures we have got in place, but will not be complacent. We will keep building on them and adopt all of Clive Sheldon’s recommendations and keep moving forward to make the game as safe as possible.”
Among the suggestions were:
- FA to encourage all parents to receive tailored safeguarding training, including signs of abuse and grooming and confidence to talk with and listen to children. Recommend FA works with PL & EFL to develop an online course for parents in grassroots and the pro game.
- Safeguarding officers employed by all Premier League and English Football League (EFL) clubs
- Introduction of safeguarding training at several levels in the game, including all players and young people as well as the FA board and senior management team
- FA should widen requirements regarding ‘spot checks’ with grassroots clubs on an annual basis to review policies and practices, including overnight stays; away travel and trips; use of social media; and coaching in digital environment. These should also obtain the views of children.
- Publishing a safeguarding report every year
The Offside Trust, the organisation set up by survivors of child sexual abuse in sport, termed these recommendations “blindingly obvious to anyone” following the scandal breaking in 2016 and was “disappointed not to see anything stronger in terms of mandatory reporting”.