Scotland

Football abuse: SFA publish child safety strategy

Boys playing football Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The sport has been rocked by a series of sex abuse scandals since 2016

The Scottish FA has published its new strategy for protecting children following a review into sexual abuse in football.

The Child Wellbeing and Protection Strategy aims to be "the catalyst for the transformational change".

It follows a report which concluded "football had not always been a safe place" for young players.

Celtic said they had started their own investigation following a number of cases involving Celtic Boys Club.

Several of the victims have expressed anger at the club's refusal to acknowledge blame or issue an apology.

The SFA commissioned an independent review into the matter in 2017, with the interim report highlighting almost 100 recommendations.

Within the five-year plan, it has pledged to implement a system to ensure protection for children and young people at all levels of the sport, in addition to becoming more accountable for their safety and wellbeing.

SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell said: "In 2016, the Scottish FA commissioned an independent review into sexual abuse in Scottish football.

"The interim report, published in 2018, reported that football had not always been a safe place for some of the children and young people involved in our game.

"The recommendations highlighted that the safety and well-being of children and young people in our sport needed to be prioritised at every level of the game."

He added: "As a board, we are extremely grateful to everyone who took part in the independent review and who has therefore provided the catalyst for the transformational change that this strategy seeks to achieve.

"The Scottish FA board is pleased to introduce this five-year strategy for Scottish football and we extend our thanks to all those who took part in its construction.

"We look forward to receiving and scrutinising updates on its implementation and to fulfilling our leadership role across the game in this essential area of Scottish football."

Image caption SFA chief executive Iain Maxwell said the safety of children and young people need to be prioritised at "every level" of the game.

The strategy's launch coincided with the hosting of the Scottish FA's second meeting of child wellbeing and protection officers, who are tasked with developing and introducing safeguards for young footballers.

Mr Maxwell was joined at the network meeting by Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd, chairwoman of the independent advisory board Jackie Brock, Community Justice Scotland chief executive Karyn McCluskey, Martin Henry - who chaired the independent review - and Paul Stewart, the former Tottenham Hotspur player and abuse survivor.

The SFA chief executive said: "As Scotland's national sport, we have known for a long time about the positive impact football can have on children and young people.

"It can impact on all of the national indicators of a child's wellbeing - that she or he is safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included.

"Above all our children and young people should love being involved in football, enjoying and having fun in whatever way they choose to participate.

"This can only come about if they feel - and are - safe."

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