The Sheldon Report into non-recent child sexual abuse in football is published

Last updated: 17 Mar 2021 Topics: Safeguarding children Type: News article

The Sheldon Report has been released today, following the independent review into allegations of non-recent child sexual abuse in football. This was led by Clive Sheldon QC.

This Report was commissioned by The Football Association (The FA) after survivors bravely came forward in November 2016.

Addressing survivors directly in a statement today, Mark Bullingham, Chief Executive of The FA, said:

"What you went through was horrific and it is deeply upsetting that more was not done by the game at the time, to give you the protection you deserved.

"There are consistent features in this review. Of bystanders who didn’t do anything. Of children that weren’t believed. Of the damage that has been caused.”

Mark Bullingham went on to say:

"One of our main aims when we commissioned this review was to understand what the game knew. The clear answer is ‘not enough’. There is simply no excuse for this. The game failed to provide the support these children needed. It is shocking and unthinkable that the right questions were not being asked at that time.

"As a game, we failed to prevent this abuse. We all have to learn from that, in order to protect future generations. We will continue to keep safeguarding children at the heart of everything we do. The past must never be forgotten, and we must never be complacent."

Michelle North, Head of the NSPCC’s Child Protection in Sport Unit, said:

“The Sheldon Report sets out the appalling sexual abuse suffered by numerous boys at a number of clubs over several decades. We should all be grateful for the incredible courage they have shown in speaking out, especially as for many the pain and suffering they experienced years ago still haunts their lives today.

“They were let down by a sport and a society that was ill-equipped to protect children from abusers who exploited the power they had over boys. Survivors had nowhere to go to report what was happening to them and there was no-one acting on those ‘seeds of doubt’ that were repeatedly surfacing around certain figures.

“The FA has acknowledged that more should have been done, more quickly, after sexual abuse cases came to light in the mid-90s. However, since 2005 they have worked hard to embed safeguarding across the organisation and the game.

“As a result, football is now a different place, but we can’t be complacent and must learn from what has happened. We need to make sure safeguarding is woven into the fabric of all sport, professional and grassroots.

“We also need a culture of protection where governing bodies, clubs, coaches, administrators and parents all share the responsibility for ensuring children can enjoy playing sport in a safe and secure environment.”

Dedicated football helpline

In the wake of the revelations about sexual abuse in 2016, The FA asked the NSPCC to set-up a dedicated helpline to act as a safe and confidential place for victims to share their stories and for the NSPCC to provide advice and support.

From the launch to March 2020, the helpline received 846 child welfare contacts, with approximately three quarters of these being referred on to the relevant authorities for further action.

If, following the announcement of this report, you would like to speak to someone about any concerns, you can call the helpline free on 0800 023 2642 for support.

Download

You can download the full Sheldon report from The FA's website.

Related information

Football's darkest secrets – 3-part BBC series examining non-recent child abuse in youth football all across England between the 1970’s and the 1990’s, and the culture of silence that surrounds it.

Further resources

Protecting children from grooming and sexual abuse – CPSU guidance

Learning from lived experience of childhood sexual abuse – CPSU podcast