London (AFP) – The Football Association was guilty of inexcusable “institutional failings” in delaying the implementation of child safeguarding measures between 1995 and 2000, an independent review of historical sexual abuse has found.
The review said high-profile convictions — including one for serial abuser Barry Bennell in the United States in 1995 — should have served as the catalyst for change, but it took another five years for the FA to put adequate processes in place.
“The FA acted far too slowly to introduce appropriate and sufficient child protection measures, and to ensure that safeguarding was taken sufficiently seriously by those involved in the game,” the report said.
“These are significant institutional failings for which there is no excuse. During this period, the FA did not do enough to keep children safe.”
Bennell was sentenced to 31 years in prison in February 2018 for 50 counts of child abuse against 12 boys aged eight to 15 between 1979 and 1991.
Judge Clement Goldstone described Bennell as “the devil incarnate”. He was sentenced to a further four years last year.
The review, led by barrister Clive Sheldon, also looked at how the FA and individuals at clubs with links to suspected or convicted abusers dealt with reports of abuse.
It stated that, in some cases, “clubs acted too slowly, or inappropriately” in response to such reports.
In all, the review said that data passed to it in August 2020 had identified 240 suspects and 692 survivors.
The review makes 13 recommendations for the FA to improve safeguarding.
“Understanding and acknowledging the appalling abuse suffered by young players in the period covered by the review is important for its own sake,” said Sheldon.
“Survivors deserve to be listened to, and their suffering deserves to be properly recognised.
“As well as recognising and facing up to what happened in the past, it is also important that this terrible history is not repeated, and that everything possible is done now to safeguard the current and future generations of young players.
“I hope that this report will make some contribution towards that.”