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Sheldon report slams FA over ‘institutional failing’ that led to child sex abuse


A report published by Clive Sheldon QC today looked into evidence of offences committed between 1970 and 2005.

It uncovered 690 survivors of abuse at the hands of 240 suspects, but warned that the actual figure could be much higher due to the pressure still felt by those affected to remain tight-lipped about their experiences.

The report was commissioned in 2016 after Andy Woodward broke his own silence about abuse he suffered from Barry Bennell, currently in prison on a four-year sentence.

It found that while the issue was a general problem in sport until 1995, the conviction of swimming coach Paul Hickson for two rape offences should have provoked more of a reaction from a governing body like the FA – although it admitted that other sports “can also be criticised for their responses”.

It was only in 2000 that they set up their child-protection programme set up, which while highly regarded, was still guilty in the eyes of the report of a number of mistakes, not least failing to ban Bennell following his arrest and another serial offender Bob Higgins, whose trial had collapsed in 1992 but would still have fallen short of new standards introduced in 2003.

Higgins was jailed for 24 years in 2019.

Going forward, Sheldon has recommended a Safeguarding Champion be nominated on the FA board, with full-time salaried safeguarding officers all at league clubs if possible, or at least a 50% part-time role for clubs in Leagues 1 and 2.

He would also like to see an annual report and National Day of Safeguarding in Football marked every year in the fixture calendar.

The FA are set to respond to the report’s findings later this afternoon.


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