Child Abuse in Football: The FA is not Matchfit

An urgent communication from the Whiteflowers Campaign – reproduced here as received by me just with a bit of tidying from email to blog form: See also 19th December update at the end.

The Football Association was forced to replace the head of its inquiry into child abuse in football within ten days. At least the toppled Kate Gallafent QC can claim that she lasted longer than then-Home Secretary Theresa May’s first child abuse inquiry appointee, Judge Butler Sloss.

The bookies may yet offer odds on how long Gallafent’s replacement, Clive Sheldon QC will last. If the FA wishes to get to the bottom of what happened then it may appear strange to many survivors when they appoint a man whom the Jewish Chronicle recently highlighted as having a “record of defending the establishment”

A non-statutory inquiry into “what was known by the FA” looks reminiscent to May’s first child abuse inquiry, which many astute observes commented amounted to nothing but a document search. One may speculate whether the FA inquiry will end up in the same historical bin as May’s first stab at inquiring into one of the most all pervasive crimes in Britain.
The appointment of Gallafent smacked of the FA appointing someone whom the football establishment were comfortable with and with potential conflicts of interest. May’s appointee’s Butler Sloss and Fiona Woolf were speared on the same observation. Indeed, the FA had to replace Gallafent when it was pointed out that she is currently involved in defending the Catholic Church against child abuse allegations.

One can almost feel sorry for the FA whose leading figures have been cosying up to each other for years and shuffling the deckchairs around to give the appearance of being shipshape. Occasional government threats for the FA to clean up its act on all levels have proved to be mere spin, which the FA have blocked with the dead bats that spin deserves.
Professional football in Britain has long been peppered with accusations and revelations of corruption; and the abuse of young people entering the game is the most heinous form of corruption, preying on children’s innocence and aspirations. Covering child abuse up and protecting paedophiles while claiming to represent the best interests of young people and their families has to be a crime on the highest level. Yet the clubs knew both the seriousness of the crimes carried out by the paedophiles in their midst and that of covering up for them. Why else did they attempt to buy off survivors and insist on heavy gagging clauses to keep their evil secrets? Why else did they turn a blind eye to rumour, and a deaf ear to player’s allegations?
Despite the public horror at the allegations and the FA claiming to recognise how serious they are, as did Theresa May, its leading officers have incompetently stumbled into damage limitation actions rather than tackling the issue head on or falling on their swords.
When Greg Clarke et al, attempting to reassure the public, continually repeat their mantra that “football is safer nowadays”, they beg the question: “How do they know?” “What did they know, which they kept from the public and the Police?” Or is it just more spin? Did they know or not know of the alleged extent of the crimes – across 100 clubs and involving hundreds of children and scores of abusers? Child abuse then was as much a crime as it is now. What allowed child abuse to fester in all corners of the country was not primarily lax procedures and laws but a culture of cover ups, “beyond truths” and favours, which as shown by the Savile, Cyril Smith and many other cases went to the highest level.
The FA seem to be oblivious to the sorry fact that, just weeks before the football abuse scandal broke, the Metropolitan and City of London Police launched probes into corruption in football clubs and were quizzing FA members.
Jonathan Booker, a registered FA intermediary and former general secretary of the Association of Football Agents, spelt out the problem in the Guardian: “corrupt behaviour has gone relatively unchecked for long enough to become accepted and be an endemic part of football’s culture.” (Sep 29, 2016)
The FA establishment’s failure to acknowledge and act on its cover up/deaf ear culture, preferring for a “steady the ship” approach reassuring families and young people that everything is in order when it is not, smacks of insincerity and incompetence. The mountain of testimonies exposes club cover ups and management systems riddled with blind eyes and deaf ears, and of hear no evil, see no evil when it comes to the actions of football’s boardrooms. The FA boardroom backslappers can not seriously be left to sponsor an inquiry into rape, paedophile rings and conspiracy.
May was forced to abandon her powerless first child abuse inquiry under accusations of conflicts of interest and toothlessness. The Home Secretary replaced it with a statutory inquiry. Similarly if football is to get anyway near to discovering the truths concerning child abuse in the game then it needs to be completely independent of the discredited football establishment and have statutory powers on the lines of Professor Jay’s national child abuse inquiry.
But the football child abuse inquiry must be kept out of Jay’s hands or that of the Home Office otherwise it will be swallowed up in the governmental political machinations which have so undermined Jay et al. The game needs swift decisive action rather than a sense amongst the public that the issue has been kicked into the Jay Inquiry long grass. It must be government funded, with a dedicated forensic investigative arm.
However, the biggest lesson to be learned from the Jay, Goddard, Woolf and Butler-Sloss inquiries is that if the survivors who have come forward and players’ representatives and fan’s representatives are not given a critical and central role in its deliberations then it will frame the wrong questions, give the wrong answers and stumble through as long a list of departing discredited inquiry heads.
What can ensure the football inquiries going the way of the national child abuse inquiry is if the half million fans attending football on a weekend matchday get to their feet and demonstrate their support for those survivors that have disclosed and demand justice and an end to cover ups. Working with the survivors, fans’ and players’ representatives can make the difference in football and show the May’s inquiries how improved child protection and justice can be achieved.
If the fates of our football loving children and grandchildren are to be protected then football fans everywhere need to show their hand in demanding a thorough going ruthless inquiry and justice to truly clean up the game.
Survivors and support bodies can play a role by contacting their local “Supporters Trusts” and fans’ groups and urging them to call as a start for one minute’s applause in support of those in football who have disclosed abuse, for zero tolerance of child abuse and cover ups, for a government funded statutory inquiry independent of the FA and the Jay Inquiry and for the club’s to hold an annual child abuse awareness week to promote continual vigilance.

Update 19th Dec 2016

Supporters’ Groups Call for Action in Support of Football’s Survivors

The child abuse revelations in football have shocked football supporters everywhere. Over 100 clubs are subject to police investigations, including several Premier League clubs where the average wage of a footballer is said to be £2million a year. The Football Association has launched an investigation but have virtually no powers to expose cover ups.

Meanwhile the Jay inquiry has ducked taking the issue on. This is probably favourable. Whiteflowers, like the Football Supporters Federation (FSF) believes football requires a separately funded statutory inquiry to investigate child abuse covers ups with the pay offs and favours culture, and this to be compelled to report within two years – a deadline the Jay Inquiry is not resourced to meet.
The Football Supporters federation has published this statement on their website.
In addition, City of Liverpool Football Club, a small supporter-owned club, has called on its fans to hold a 1 minute’s applause match day demonstration in support of survivors and justice. The club is also looking for the other Merseyside clubs to follow suit. It has produced the below statement, which we hope will inspire survivors around the country to contact supporter organisations and call on them to follow suit>
City of Liverpool FC
“Generations have grown up dreaming of playing professional football. For many, those childhood dreams moved closer towards becoming reality when they took the first steps into professional football’s youth development system. For too many those dreams became a living nightmare when they suffered horrific abuse at the hands of people entrusted to develop bright futures not blight young lives.

City of Liverpool Football Club stands unequivocally in solidarity alongside those who have bravely disclosed evidence of child abuse in football. The club offers support to those campaigning for a government funded statutory inquiry into child abuse in football, independent of both the FA and the Professor Jay’s national child abuse inquiry. We believe that if our game is to properly address this crisis there must be no attempt to deny who knew what, when, and what action was taken (or not taken). If football is to get close to discovering the truth about child abuse in the game, and ensuring that there is no hiding place in football for the perpetrators of child abuser, an inquiry with statutory powers that is independent of the football establishment must take place.

The Whiteflowers Campaign Group, which has been to the fore in demands for justice from the national child abuse inquiry, is calling on football clubs and supporters groups to support their campaign for an independent statutory inquiry. As such, before our next home fixture, City of Liverpool FC is calling for a minute’s applause to demonstrate our solidarity with those who have suffered from child abuse within football and to show our support for the Whiteflowers Campaign Group’s call for an independent statutory inquiry and zero tolerance to child abuse and any attempt to cover up child abuse in football.

As a supporter owned football club, City of Liverpool FC urges all of our fellow supporters’ organisations to show their support for this campaign in whatever way they best can and we commend the statement published by the Football Supporters Federation:

http://www.fsf.org.uk/latest-news/view/abuse-of-children-and-young-people-in-football

The Football Abuse Helpline (set-up by the FA with the NSPCC) is available 24 hours a day on 0800 023 2642. You can also contact NSPCC (0808 800 5000) or ChildLine (0800 1111). The Offside Trust is an independent trust set up by survivors of abuse in football to support players and their families. Anyone who has information regarding child abuse should phone the police on 101 or 999 (emergency).”

What fans can do at their clubs –

CALL FOR SUPPORTERS’ GROUPS TO:

  • Issue a statement in fanzines and on websites
  • Carry pieces in fanzines e.g. interviews with survivors
  • Invite survivors to supporters’ meetings to discuss the issues
  • Link up with local survivor and abuse support groups
  • Consider match day support actions (e.g. 1 minute’s applause) in support of disclosing survivors and pressing for further action against abuse and cover ups
  • Call for their clubs to open the books to supporter representatives to demonstrate that all procedures are in place and being followed
  • Call for clubs to have annual abuse awareness weeks
  • Write to local MPs and encourage all supporters to contact their local MPs calling for them to demand Parliament institutes a statutory inquiry.

Author: Martin Houston

This is my own little corner of the Internet. You will find a mixed bunch of stuff about Open Source (what I have done for a job for the last quarter of a century) and wider issues of what is wrong with the world. I am a freelancer so if you would like any software written (for money) get in touch!

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