Abuse of children: it seems that clubs have found an absolute loophole



By Tony Attwood

I have written a number of times about the way in which a parent’s complaint about his son’s treatment at a football club after an injury has been dealt with.

But now things seem to have gone to an absolute extreme, for the individual whose case I have been following, has now been told in no uncertain terms by the footballing authorities that the authorities will no longer answer his requests for information and help.

At the heart of this matter is the fact that the league club claims to have lost the medical records related to the young player.   So now we find that according to the League and FA this is a valid excuse not to investigate a case of a young player being played when he should not have been. 

No punishment to the club for losing the medical records, no offer of help or support to the young player whose medical records have been lost.  No investigation into whether the club is guilty of playing a young player who should not have been played, because of injury.

As far as I can follow the case, the player was dismissed by the club, and when the parent made a complaint concerning this he was told that nothing could be done because the medical records, suddenly, were “missing.”   

The parent made a complaint then both to the Football League and to the Football Association, but they have each refused to help bring a case against the football club and instead turned on the father as if it were somehow his fault.

Thus we have a complete “get out of jail free” card.   If anyone complains that a young person has been played when unfit,  the club can simply say, “we’ve lost the medical records,” and the League and FA will just do nothing.  No punishment to the club for losing the records, no compensation to the young player whose career has been wrecked.

The simple fact is that since “losing medical records” is not treated by the Football League and the Football Association as a major offence when committed by a club, then it is quite clear that no abuse or negligence claim is ever going to be successful.  And thus no child is ever safe when in the hands of a football club.

In fact this case is a direct encouragement for clubs to “lose” their medical records of junior players, and it becomes vital for parents to know that having their child train with a league club could lead to a life-changing injury for which there may never be any comeback for the child, or the parent acting on the child’s behalf.

And this is the point I want to make very clear.  What is so incredibly alarming is the fact that questions raised by a parent about the treatment of children at a club, can simply be jettisoned, seemingly by both the Foootball League and the Football Association, because the league club in question can say, “We’ve lost the medical records.”

What should happen of course is that all medical records should be immediately copied and placed on a computer system that is completely apart from that of the football club.   That record should be available for inspection by anyone with a legitimate interest, (such as a parent, or indeed another club seeking to employ the player) at any time.

This is a basic matter of child protection in a society that is normally, I am pleased to say as a UK citizen, concerned about protecting children.

But now with the shrug of the shoulders acceptance by the football authorities that medical records are missing, all child protection disappears.   The message to parents can only be that having your child go to a professional club for training might appear a wonderful step forward.  But if a club is financially challenged (for example) and so cutting corners by not looking after the child properly (for example by playing him when he should be rested) neither the parent nor the child will have any comeback, either from the League or from the Football Association.

I would have hoped that after the appalling accusations and numerous guilty verdicts in the child sex abuse scandals that have enveloped football in recent years, all such loopholes as this would have been cleared up years ago, but no, it seems the laissez-faire attitude of football authorities when it comes to looking after children is still here.

Both the League and the FA need to ensure that all medical records are copied and that the copies are kept securely so that if any allegation is ever made against a club for mistreatment of a young player, the records can be inspected to see if the club has been negligent.  Failure to be able to produce such records for inspection by a parent or other relevant person should result in the club having its right to play removed.

That might seem draconian, but it is simply a case of protecting children.  The rest of society in the UK does it.  How come football thinks that for them it doesn’t matter?

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