By Billy McGuire
There are many reasons not to like the FA. The fact that they take tax payers money, the fact that they are in cahoots with successive governments who will not act against them, the fact that are congenitally unable to reform themselves, the fact that they run the shambles that has been the England team (at least since they were allowed to play all their games at Wembley), and the fact of their eternal and unforgivable support of Fifa. At least their predecessors had standards and were willing to remove themselves from the international body when in disagreement over a fundamental point. But not now.
But perhaps most striking of all is the utter refusal of the FA to do anything serious about football’s sexual-abuse scandal other than suggest that it was all in the past and everything is now under control.
It now appears that far from being positive and supportive with individuals and agencies following the revelations of widespread abuse of youngsters within football clubs, we now find what the Guardian calls a “lack of co-operation from a number of high-ranking Football Association officials”.
Given that England has been torn apart by sex scandals in recent years involving most notably people working with the BBC as well as occasional matters relating to religious groups and politicians, one might think such blocking of enquiries was a thing of the past.
But when the FA started to look at sex abuse cases it set up a rather curious cut-off date of 2005, as if suggesting that it had clear knowledge that illicit activity was switched off in that year.
However as the Guardian has reported, 46 of the incidents reported to the police since November, relate to the period from 2005 to 2016.
It seems that there have been “187 reported incidents of sexual assaults on junior footballers from the 20-year period beginning in 1996. Twenty-three relate to the years from 2011 onwards and, as if that is not alarming enough, it is also worth keeping in mind the true figure will be considerably higher.”
Dino Nocivelli, a specialist child-abuse lawyer, quoted by the Guardian, is now representing a number of football child-abuse survivors and hopes that the age range will come down on the back of the latest scandal. He says the figures since the millennium “are very likely the tip of the iceberg”.
So what are the FA doing? Well, in 2003 it withdrew all funding from a major review of its child-protection policies. Shall I run that by you once more? In 2003, they stopped funding a review of child protection.
We might care to ask why? Indeed we ought to add that to all our other questions about why the FA supports Fifa and refuses to reform itself. Is there something rotten in the state of FA? It seems likely. Plus as the Guardian adds, “it would certainly be useful to know why so many people at the FA, as well as the sport in general, were openly hostile and obstructive to the team of academics, led by Celia Brackenridge of Brunel University, who conducted the study.”
Apparently a report, seen by the Guardian, says that only four of the 14 FA staff who were asked for interviews bothered to respond. Others were “prevented/bullied” from not talking, in keeping with the “wall of silence”.
And let me say it again. This is the FA that is funded by taxpayers via government grants, an organisation that is closely in cahoots with Fifa.
The Guardian adds, “The football community was, in the main, helpful and cooperative about the research but there were also occasions where our fieldworkers faced rudeness, including from people in paid positions and/or in positions of significant authority within the FA. One club official threw the researcher’s ID card back across the table at her; another refused to return numerous telephone calls and even pretended to be someone else on the telephone to avoid being interviewed.”
Brackenridge says that the FA’s problem is the “embarrassment at the many other problems facing the game – doping, crowd control, bungs and fixes, among others. The more the FA could trumpet their work for children, the better they could deflect attention from the uglier side of the game.”
She speaks of “organisational inertia” inside the FA and, referring to a year-long delay to sign off the project, concluding that the governing body “did not know what right and left hand were doing”. At the end of the project she says she had to bring in lawyers to force the FA to settle its bills. “On the day we were due to go to court to sue them the money finally came through.” The whole thing sounds a mess.
As for the enquiry that is going on, four months into the process no one has been interviewed. Crewe Alexandra who have multiple questions to answer seem not to have arranged interviews with any of the relevant former players who have been implicated having, on 26 November said that they would be running an independent review, as they were “determined that a thorough investigation takes place at the earliest opportunity”. We don’t yet know who is leading the enquiry.
But on saturday a spokesperson for Crewe said, most frighteningly of all, “Clubs have been advised not to investigate historical allegations at this stage,” and that was it.
What we appear to have, with the FA at the centre, is yet another attempt to hide football’s crimes. And no one much (apart from the Guardian) is making much of a fuss.
If anyone else in the football world cares, they really ought to start making a fuss.
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