Assurances offered as football chiefs speak out over sex attack claims of ex-pro

Youngsters get a briefing from their coach during an FA competition in the North East.
Youngsters get a briefing from their coach during an FA competition in the North East.

Parents are being assured that tight safeguarding are in place to protect young footballers across the region.

Durham Football Association says it has a strict training and education policy, which sees each of the 700-plus coaches sit a safeguarding course each season, while clubs have and appointed welfare officer who must pass a high standard of training.

We want to keep children as safe as we possible and enjoy football.

Richard Hughes, Durham FA

Its leaders have also said they also follow a set process of carrying out investigations and work alongside police and council safeguarding teams to tackle any concerns or allegations.

They also say those who have been targeted by abusers should be confident in coming forward and everything will be done to make sure offenders are dealt with.

As part of its work it runs a dedicated computer system to help support officials in their work and has the support of children’s charity NSPCC and the FA’s national office should inquiries be launched.

The organisation, which has teams aged from seven upwards, oversees the sport in Sunderland, South Tyneside, County Durham, Hartlepool, Gateshead, Darlington and Stockton.

The assurances come in the wake of ex-player Paul Stewart’s claims he was abused by his coach as a child.

The former England, Sunderland, Liverpool and Spurs star has said he and other youngsters were repeatedly attacked.

Richard Hughes is the county welfare officer for safeguarding children and vulnerable adults for Durham FA.

“We want to keep children as safe as we possible and enjoy football,” he said.

“We carry out criminal record checks on all persons that are involved in children’s football, so that’s managers, coaches and referees and they also have club welfare officers in place.

“They also get an annual health check which makes sure everyone involved in clubs are up to date in terms of qualifications and certificates.”

He added: “I think the situation which has come about shows that people will continue to come forward and we need to make sure that instances are investigated and training takes place across football, so that this doesn’t happen again.

“The more than come forward, the more the issue will continue to be focused on.”

The number of former footballers to have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse by coaches when they were boys is now in double figures, according to Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Gordon Taylor.

The players’ union boss offered the update after Cheshire Police confirmed that 11 individuals have now contacted them as they expand their investigation into a coach’s activities over a period of three decades from the 1970s onward.

He said: “It is up to all of us now to grasp the nettle and we make sure we learn from this.

“I want all players, even those who didn’t make the grade, to feel that the PFA is a safe haven of support for them.
“We will help with counselling, treatment, whatever they need.”