Alan Hardy: Notts County owner in Twitter row after filming in academy dressing room
Notts County owner Alan Hardy has become embroiled in a Twitter row after breaching the Football Association's guidelines on child protection.
Hardy shared video shot inside the club's academy dressing room before a game at Manchester City.
He removed the video after the FA, which prohibits filming in changing rooms, contacted the club.
A children's charity said Hardy should take guidelines "seriously" but he said they must not be "overly restrictive".
What are the FA's guidelines?
- Best practice guidance - Changing rooms and showering facilities: "The use of mobile phones and/or photographic equipment by club officials, members, parents and young people should be prohibited within areas where children and young people are changing/showering."
- Celebrating football through photographs and video - recommended guidelines: "Don't allow images to be recorded in changing rooms, showers or toilets - this includes the use of mobile phones that record images."
When the FA's safeguards relating to changing rooms and photography were pointed out to Hardy after he initially published the video, he posted a series of tweets defending it.
The video, which was removed after the FA approached Notts County, did not show any player in a state of undress.
When Hardy took the video down, he tweeted an apology, but again defended the filming and sharing of the video.
"Apologies to those who felt they had to complain to FA re: video of academy team jumping around in their full kit excited at Man City. Deleted," Hardy tweeted.
He followed up with: "Our children enjoying themselves too much. We'll be sending them back up the chimneys next!!"
In a statement, Hardy said he had "received overwhelming support from parents of the children concerned".
He continued: "What frustrates me in this particular case is that I am said to have contravened a guideline which prevents images being taken of children who are undressed.
"My view is that the fact the video was shot inside the changing room is completely irrelevant as the children were all suitably clothed.
"As a father of five children, three of whom are under the age of 10, as well as a coach of under-eights and under-10s football teams, I am well aware of my responsibilities as a parent, adult and coach."
'Take safeguarding seriously'
More than 8,000 youth football clubs have renewed their safeguarding commitment with the FA since the sport's child sexual abuse scandal emerged in 2016.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), the United Kingdom's leading children's charity, which has worked with the FA since the the 1990s and set up a dedicated football abuse hotline following allegations of historical child abuse, said "they prohibit anyone taking photos or filming within areas where young people are changing".
An NSPCC spokesperson said: "With the recent shocking revelations about sexual abuse in football clubs, we would hope that everyone involved in children's sports, particularly at the highest level to take safeguarding seriously."
The FA said Notts "dealt with the matter" after being contacted, and that there will be no further investigation, although they will keep and "open dialogue" with the club.
However, Hardy said he does not want to see children's enjoyment of the game "diminished" by guidelines, or parents and coaches denied the chance to "capture precious moments on film".
He added: "My opinion is that, while I fully advocate tough punishment for those who pose a genuine threat to children, we must be careful when setting safeguarding rules to ensure they are not overly restrictive.
"What next? Are mobile phones going to be banned at beaches and waterparks? Yes, we must protect our children, but common sense has to prevail in an era when photography, videography and social media play such a prominent role in everyone's lives."