By Tony Attwood
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.”
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.
- Arsenal have benefitted by the world cup break: allegedly.
- Arsenal and Tottenham: which has had the easier ride so far this season?
- Arsenal v Tottenham: not exactly a battle of equals.
- Death by 300,000 passes: how the Arsenal transformation started 2 seasons ago.
- Approaching derby day we recall when Arsenal helped Tottenham get into the league