The Sheldon report on historical sexual abuse within football was published on Wednesday, and reached some damning conclusions on the game’s authorities and its clubs.
Here the PA news agency examines the report in more detail.
What is the background to the report?
What were the key conclusions?
That was an “institutional failing” on the FA’s part. It said there were also mistakes made in the period after 2000, including the failure to monitor Bennell on his release from prison in 2003, after his first UK conviction.
How did the authorities react?
What about the clubs?
A host of clubs were criticised for not acting or investigating rumours and concerns about coaches connected to them.
“There was often a feeling that without ‘concrete evidence’ or a specific allegation from a child nothing could, or should, be done, and so there was a reluctance to investigate or monitor, let alone confront the perpetrator and interfere with his actions,” Sheldon said.
What was the scope of the report?
He did state though that, in his view, abuse was not commonplace and that the “overwhelming majority” of children engaged positively with the sport during this period.
Did the report make recommendations for improvements?
Yes, 13 of them, all accepted in full by the FA. They include such things as an annual report on safeguarding, for the 92 Premier League and EFL clubs to have a safeguarding officer either on a full or part-time basis and to ensure spot-checks on grassroots football are reviewed annually.
What did abuse survivors say?
Survivors’ charity the Offside Trust said it was “disappointing” that there was nothing stronger on mandatory reporting – where any suspicion of abuse is passed onto Government authorities.
Are things better now?
Bullingham believes the FA’s safeguarding procedures are now “industry-leading” but warned: “Threats to children still exist in society. We urge parents and carers to be aware of today’s risks – particularly in the online space.
“This report should serve as a reminder of the importance for everyone to be aware of current risks. It is clear that child sexual abusers are both manipulative and calculating, and they will adapt their methods over time.
“We too must adapt and be eternally vigilant, to prevent abuse in any form, in any part of society. We owe that both to the survivors of abuse and to future generations.”