Football is at a crossroads and survivors cannot be ignored any longer

Mary GlasgowBy Mary Glasgow, Interim Chief Executive, Children 1st

Today Scottish football is at a crossroads. The interim report of the review into child sexual abuse in football is the greatest opportunity the Scottish FA has to transform a culture which made it too easy for people in positions of power to abuse children without challenge, for too long.

Some 65 people courageously spoke to the review team about the devastating impact of sexual abuse on their lives. Ongoing legal cases mean their voices can’t be included verbatim in the interim report. But Martin Henry is clear that their personal accounts “have been the most significant factor in shaping and influencing the findings of the independent review.”

They cannot be ignored. More can and must be done so other children do not continue to suffer as they did.

Too often, when institutions fail to protect children, it can be easier to focus on changes in policies and procedures, rather than transforming culture. Yet while policies and procedures provide a vital framework in which organisations and institutions operate, ultimately it is the culture that keeps children safe.

Where sports develop a child-centred culture, they can be an enormous force for good. Football commands more resources than any other sport and over 100,000 young people participate.

By showing strong leadership, investing more resources in child wellbeing and protection and ensuring the voice of children and young people are heard and acted upon at every level, Scottish football could become a leader in creating a much safer and protective environment for children to enjoy in sport.

This article first appeared in The Scotsman.

Any volunteer or official looking for advice or support about a child can contact Safeguarding in Sport online or on 0141 419 1156. Children 1st’s Parentline service can also offer advice and support to parents online or on 08000 28 22 33.