Child abuse and dealing in under age children is still rampant in football



By Tony Attwood

I have several times in the past written about the problem of children aged 16 and under who are recruited by league clubs in England and then get injured.  I’ve often wondered why so few other people are concerned with this, but maybe that’s just football.  Maybe children don’t matter.  (Safeguarding training does exist, but how many clubs have invested in it, it is hard to say).

Of course when a player is injured the club is supposed to keep detailed medical records of how the injury occurred, when the club found out, which doctor advised on the treatment, the treatment the player got, who administered the treatment and how long before he returned to play.

That is what is supposed to happen, and you might expect that football clubs being honorable and just employers with a concern for the children that come their way they would do that.

But there are always some rotten apples, and so provision needs to be made for any occurrence in which a youngster is not given the right protection and treatment.  After all it could be that clubs do lose injury records so that when adult players are injured, their value doesn’t drop.

However you would expect keeping proper records is what everyone does in football – after all we are only a short time away from finding out about the horrors of men employed within football clubs who used their position to abuse youngsters, and those who worked within the clubs who turned a blind eye to it.

Surely if at any time in the history of football, this would be the time when all clubs and the authorities that oversee them would be redoubling their efforts to protect children.

But it seems not.  For, because I have written about this sort of situation in the past I find that I get the tip off about other cases that are arising.

Of course I can’t make any judgement about whether a child received the right treatment or was deliberately played while injured in order (for example) to make up the numbers.  But I can say from the evidence I have seen, that no one seems to be interested in dealing with such matters.

For a start there are two organisations that might be involved: the Football Association and the Football League / Premier League.   As far as I can tell (and of course I am not a private detective so I don’t have all the data) each organisation suggests it is the other that handles such matters.

In fact if either the Football Association or Football League or Premier League were to write in here to say “Yes it is us, tell your correspondent to write to this address with his concerns,” we’d be getting somewhere.  But no, no one wants to take on the responsibility of keeping clubs in line when it comes to children.

And that after all the child abuse scandals of recent years!  It’s hard to believe.

But there is more, because as I have noted before, there is no regulation either in the Football League, or the Premier League or the Football Association for each league club to keep not only the medical records of the children in their youth teams, but to keep back up copies elsewhere in case the originals “get lost”.

As a most simple approach the clubs should be ordered to keep records for 10 years, AND to hand over copies immediately to the FA which has the duty of storing the records in an utterly secure computer system the integrity of which is checked daily.

That’s an incredibly simple idea.  It could have been done last year when I first started wriiting about this.  Or five years ago.  Or ten years ago.   After all this is a matter of child safety, and stopping the abuse of children by playing them when injured.

But no.  If you have a child who is good at football and signs up with a professional club while of school age, you really ought to note that your child has no protection in terms of ensuring that he/she is given the proper medical treatment and not allowed to play until medically cleared.

There might be some records of what happens in the league club.   But then, their computer might be faulty and they might get lost.  And then there will be no records at all, and your child’s chance of getting compensation for being encouraged to play while unfit will be lost.

One simple change of FA regulations, and the installation of one new computer is all we need.

Mind you, the FA weren’t able to deal with the crowd at the last international cup final that they held, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that they can’t cope with the issue of keeping copies of medical records.

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