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Why is the FA still in control?

By Tony Attwood

FA crest 2009.svg

In 2016 Untold ran a piece that began, “In recent years the UK has been swamped with details of a huge number of child sexual exploitation cases.”   We didn’t report all the details but mention Jimmy Saville, the Rotherham gangs, Gary Glitter, and Rolf Harris, before we moved on to the story of child abuse in football.

That included the case of two former players at Crewe Alexandra and the paedophile Barry Bennell who then went to prison in 1998.

In all these cases it was clear that there were large numbers of people knew about what was going on, but did nothing thus, allowing the predators to continue unhindered.

Then Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary examined a random sample of 384 child protection cases, and found that three-quarters were substandard and had not been investigated properly.

Next,  in April 2017 we noted that  “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.”  That meant no contemporary cases could be investigated – it is a decision that has never been fully explained.

Indeed s the Guardian reported, 46 of the incidents reported to the police since November, relate to the period from 2005 to 2016.   In fact there was “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.”

But the FA said these were untouchable, possibly because they knew people still active in football were involved.

And then we asked what have the FA done thus far, and noted that in 2003 it withdrew all funding from a major review of its child-protection policies.   Plus as the Guardian added, “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.”

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Apparently a report 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 this is the FA – the body that still runs football in England.   This is the FA that is funded by idiots like me who honestly and regularly pay our taxes.   The FA is funded via government grants.

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.

Brackenridge said 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.”

If you have ever thought that these regular stories criticising the FA that Untold runs are just about me and an organisation I don’t like you might like to read that last paragraph again.

And then we found that a spokesperson for Crewe said, most frighteningly of all said, “Clubs have been advised not to investigate historical allegations at this stage,” and that was it.

Eventually a new child sexual abuse scandal involving young players began in mid-November 2016 and this time players came forward, waiving their right to anonymity.

Eventually there was a 700-page report by Clive Sheldon QC for the Football Association which sought to explain how the FA which oversees football allowed predatory abusers free access to children.

It shows there was no child protection, no safeguarding.   The victims were just left to “man up” and “deal with it”.  Reports of concern were left, everyone heard the rumours, no one did anything.  Increasingly the story shows that everyone had heard the stories, but no one did anything.

It then took until 2000 to make serious progress.  Sheldon criticised the FA for “institutional failure.”  There were calls for independent regulation.

The FA chief executive, Mark Bullingham, called 25 years of abuse, “a dark day for the beautiful game”.

But, and this is my point, the FA which was in overall control of football then as now, is still there, running the show.  It failed everyone in a way that was so appalling and grotesque one would think that some of the people there might have been charged with dereliction of duty if not wilfully allowing the abuse to go on, when so many people knew about it.

No, the FA is still there.  The same organisation that allowed child abuse in football to exist for all those years and destroy so many lives, is still there, still running children’s and youth football in this country.

Sometimes I wonder about England.

6 comments to Why is the FA still in control?

  • Mikey

    Firstly, let me say, this whole affair is an absolute tragedy that should not have been allowed to happen.

    In terms of the FA’s response, in a lengthy statement on their website, Mark Bullingham, the FA Chief Executive rightly stated, “I’d like to start by giving a heartfelt apology on behalf of the Football Association and the English game to all Survivors, that this happened to you within football. No child should ever have experienced the abuse you did.”

    Later in his statement he said, “”Our policies, standards and practices are recognised as industry leading.” He later added, “Since the Survivors came forward in 2016, we have brought in new processes in grassroots football which set standards that every county must meet, and that are independently assessed.” I sincerely hope this is the case.

    Now I don’t know Mr Bullingham and am not for one moment suggesting he is being disingenuous. The problem I have is that, as far as I can see, we still don’t know, for example, what happened to the Community Shield money that was supposed to go to the survivors of Grenfell and as such the practical concept of secrecy still exists within football. If it has been made public, it passed me by.

    From what I can see, the concept of openness and transparency has yet to be embraced by the FA as a whole. Mr Bullingham may be doing something about this, or intends to, but there doesn’t seem to have been any widely publicised plan for reform which moves the organisation on from those dark days…..maybe it’s being kept secret!

    Mr Bullingham maybe a thoroughly decent man, I don’t know him and therefore don’t have an opinion on that. But let’s not forget, the Chair of the FA stepped down after a row about having used “unacceptable” comments when referring to black players less than six months ago.

    The BBC also reported, “He prompted further criticism when referring to gay players making a “life choice” and a coach telling him young female players did not like having the ball hit hard at them. He also said there were “a lot more South Asians than there are Afro-Caribbeans” in the FA’s IT department because “they have different career interests”.”

    Not forgetting that in 2017, in front of a parliamentary committee, Clarke said the issue of institutional racism in football was “fluff”.

    That certainly appears to have been a great deal of unhelpful stereotyping from someone in a very powerful position who had been charged with positively moving an organisation on from the negative position it was in.

    Now Clarke was nominated by the FA Board to become chair in 2016 (we can all remember that year as, against all the odds, Leicester City won the Premiership). So Clarke was not an old dinosaur who had been at the FA for decades, he was new to the role. Prior to this he was a businessman who had been born in Leicester, went to school in Leicester and who later became a director and Chairman of Leicester City. It was obviously a very, very good year for him and Leicester!

    But let’s not forget, the Board of the FA includes both Rick Parry (Former chair of Liverpool) and David Gill (former chair of Man Utd)……interestingly they both come from the same area as a high percentage of the premiership referees whilst there are no clubs represented from areas where there are no premiership referees…..but that’s another discussion!

    Also on the Board is the Managing Director of the law firm Pinder Reaux & Associates Limited, Rupinder Bains. In the FA’s own words, “The firm specialises in media, defamation and reputation management.”

    It’s also interesting that the Interim Chairman of the Board, Peter McCormick, is the only other lawyer on the Board and, again in the FA’s own words, “He is an internationally recognised expert in Sports, Media and Entertainment Law.” (He also chairs Tribunals and Appeals for the Premier League, Football Association and PGMOL).

    It may, of course, just be a coincidence that the only two lawyers on the FA Board are experts covering the areas of media, defamation and reputation management. I guess the FA has a great deal to do in terms of it’s reputation given the history referred to in Tony’s article. Personally, I would have thought that the best way of trying to show the public of it’s having turned over a new leaf and future good intentions, would have been to wholeheartedly promote and operate within a philosophy of transparency and openness. But then I’m not a lawyer specialising in reputation management and Rome wasn’t built in a day.

    Now it has to be said that all the Board and the CEO of the FA started in their respective roles around about 2016 or thereafter so may well be the new broom that was badly required. As I said, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
    Sadly, from the perspective of this ordinary member of the public looking in from the outside, nothing appears to have changed.

    Maybe if they wanted to gain some trust a bit more transparency would help. Might I suggest they start with something that affects all paying customers…..the PGMOL?!

  • Nitram

    Tony and Mikey

    In case you didn’t know, airing on BBC 1 on Monday at 9pm is a one hour documentary about this very subject: FOOTBALLS DARKEST SECRETS.

    Only time will tell if this is just another FA Cover-up or an actual in depth investigation into what is a thoroughly unfit for purpose, incompetent, verging on criminal organisation.

  • Thank you Mikey. I wish you would write articles for Untold as well as comments

  • Nitram

    Here her to that.

    Great observations and comments as usual Mikey.

  • Mikey

    @ Tony

    I’m flattered! My comments are meant to be short when I start!

    @ Nitram

    Thanks. 9pm Monday sounds worth a look.

  • Sally Pally

    Absolutely sobering and remarkable observations, Tony and Mikey! Well said! Let us hope there is justice for the victims, that past actions and blind-eyes are punished and that there is transparency going forward. Let’s hope the FA and football as a whole can be purged of these bad apples and that children and women will be protected at all times from now on. I just contributed a comment about PGMOL corruption and the media on a previous thread. That pales into insignificance compared to this. That is just football. THIS is peoples’ whole lives blighted by depraved individuals and also those who know but say nothing. It’s too easy to brush uncomfortable things under the carpet but it is also evil to do so. We all need to be brave and shine a light.

    Hopefully, these lawyers and businessmen have enough integrity to draw a line at child abuse and will proactively help with any investigations. How incredibly tragic that the similar opportunities to expose this kind of depravity in other spheres of life, which you both mention, were not taken. Let us pray that, that’s not the case any more. ALL of us in Britain need to do our bit to make football and life in general safe for our children. And our womenfolk. We need to protect all those who come forward and all those who work against these dark and depraved forces, which have allowed this evil to continue for far too long. Monday at 9pm. Let’s see them start!