Just how widespread in football is the issue “losing” evidence concerning young players?



Keeping medical records safe

Driving past Stoke City’s ground one of our regular readers spotted a sign outside the ground of which he caught a couple of words while driving past. 

Doing a quick about turn he came back and snapped this picture – the text reads, “Stoke City FC destroyed my sons medical records to cover up his injuries! That’s a criminal offence.” Clearly this is not an Arsenal matter, and we are of course an Arsenal website, but the issue came my way as I have previously written about how clubs behave in relation to young players. 

And indeed we have called time and again for there to be independent oversight of the way clubs behave.   Indeed way back in 2017 we ran the article “The tappinig up of youth players: it just goes on and on, and still the FA won’t act properly.”   The fact is that clubs do have a legal duty to retain all injury records in law, because all employers have such a duty.   

But there is no legislation that requires a club to send duplicates of these records to the FA or the League – and that is something that is surely grossly remiss of the regulations, allows or indeed encourages clubs to act corruptly.

The point here is not that I am pointing an accusing finger at Stoke or any other club, for I am certainly not in possession of any evidence either way, but pointing out once again that the rules and regulations are utterly remiss.

Let us suppose for the moment that questions were being raised somewhere or another about a club over-training a young player or not taking due care and attention, the one set of defining documents in the case would be the medical records.   Without those there is no case.

But equally without a central register of players’ injuries no one in football can be sure of what is going on.

Now this is not the first time issues concerning young players have cropped up.  One that springs to mind was when, as the Guardian put it, “The Premier League announced the punishment on Wednesday following an investigation that started with allegations that Liverpool had poached the promising 11-year-old from Stoke but reneged on an agreement to pay his fees at private school. The boy’s parents pulled out of a deal with the Anfield club as a consequence and complained to the Premier League amid an allegation they have been left liable for thousands of pounds of school fees.”

The rule Liverpool found themselves guilty of on that occasion as Rule 299.1 which says “No club shall induce or attempt to induce a player to become registered as an academy player at that club by offering him, or any person connected with him, either directly or indirectly, a benefit or payment of any description whether in cash or in kind.”

Now that is fair enough, but amazingly, there is no rule that says “clubs must keep duplicates of all medical records regarding youth players, and lodge one copy with the Football League.

In fact the whole issue of youth players is one that has resulted in a number of legal cases and bans.  For example, I recall one in Spain which garnered the headline, “Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid lose appeals against Fifa transfer ban.”  That was over the signing of under age players.  

Now I don’t know what is going on in the Stoke case, but in the Spanish cases and the Liverpool case there was a paper trail showing what the clubs had done.  If this Stoke case is true surely it is more serious because it suggests the “losing” of vital evidence, of which duplicate copies should have been kept (whatever the regulations say) in a separate, secure place.

I can’t guarantee anything but I’ll be seeing if I can find out anything more about the case..

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