How the League and FA are guilty of an appalling dereliction of duty



By Tony Attwood

There have now been several years of campaigning to bring to light an appalling problem within the football system regarding the training of youngsters.   And absolutely nothing has happened.

Imagine this scenario: Club A which is trying to push its way out of the Championship into the Premier League (where all the money is to be found) is unable to compete in the transfer market for any big name players.  It’s prime hope of promotion is through finding some brilliant youngsters.

So it sets up a recruitment team which openly lets it be known that it is serious about bringing in young players and “giving them a real chance”.  You can imagine how many parents and their sons might well be attracted by such a scenario.

Youngsters come in by the score are quickly assessed and some selected.  The good ones get into the youth teams, and are trained hard.

But behind this something is lacking: the proper infrastructure to make sure that nothing goes wrong, and that the physical and mental well-being of the youngsters, along with their educational needs, are all properly met.

So now let’s imagine that one young player is showing particular promise, but is complaining about a pain in his leg.  A battle might break out.  The medical team say “he really needs a long break from playing, and an operation.”   That means treatment in a private hospital, which is expensive.  But the youth manager says, “I think he’s ok, he’s just making a fuss.  He often does that. Besides I need him on saturday.”

The youngster doesn’t mind too much.  He knows he has to “man up” if he wants to be a footballer, and so he plays on, although of course the advice is put down in writing in the medical records that have to be kept for each player.

The next thing we hear is that the young man really is seriously injured and can’t play on.  “Sorry son,” says the boss of the junior side.   “You’re no good to us now, you’re not being retained.”  He’s let go and is out of football.

Now clearly there are things wrong in this case.  The most obvious one is that the club was wilfully negligent over the young player’s injury by forcing him to play on.   But what happens now?

The lad’s footballing career is over and done, and there is sadness in the family.   So the family decide to try and hold the club to account, and get some compensation, as against medical advice the club kept playing the young man.

They hire a solicitor who quite reasonably says, first thing is we need to see the medical advice. 

So the parent’s solicitor starts a legal action against the club, and immediately applies for a copy of the medical record, only to be told, “Sorry it is missing from the file.”   And that ends the case.

Now of course in any serious organisation there would be more than one copy of each key document, and each copy is held not just in a different place physically but also by a different organisation on a different computer.  In this case we might think it would be easy for the file to be held a) by the club and b) by the Football League at its HQ.  (Or at the FA’s HQ).  We are not, after all, thinking of vast amounts of space being taken up.  Just a copy of the paper work stored digitally in two separate places on separate computer systems.  It would seem a very basic requirement.

But it doesn’t happen.  Because there is no such requirement for medical records to be kept in more than one place.   The club replies to the court that sorry, for reasons they don’t understand, the medical records are missing, and that is the end of that.  No compensation for the young player for a career wrecked through negligence, no action from the FA, no action from the League, and a clear signal to every other smaller club that it can cut every corner it wants without getting caught.

The fact is that players under 16 are children, and need protection.  They need protection from sexual predators and from youth team coaches who just see the youngsters as product.   

The only organisation that can provide that protection is the FA, and any club that is unable to deliver the full records of how it cared for young players in its academy should be expelled from the league forthwith.

This is a really basic requirement and the fact that this requirement is not in place, shows how little football cares for young people.   The headlines about child sex corruption cases have stopped, but there is still so much wrong, and in not putting the requirements in place, it is the League and the FA who are to blame.

One Reply to “How the League and FA are guilty of an appalling dereliction of duty”

  1. In this digital era one cannot understand that the medical record should be stored digital and cannot be removed or changed once saved on the computer.

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