Learning from the Sheldon report - what next?

Last updated: 08 Apr 2021 Topics: Safeguarding children

Following the publication of the Sheldon Report into the non-recent child sexual abuse allegations in football, the sports sector, as a whole, will be looking at what learning we can take from this report.

We must ensure that safeguarding is at the heart of sports’ culture so that children can enjoy sport in a safe and nurturing environment.

Learning from the past

Over the last 4 years, a number of ex footballers have spoken out about the abuse they suffered as children. Their bravery has led to the independent review and publication of this report and the recommendations within it.

After reading the report, many of the survivors voiced their feedback and hopes for the future.

Ian Ackley said:

“I would like to see the FA endorse far more rigorous and onerous conditions upon themselves to give the general public the faith back in the organisation to be able to self-govern.

“[The report] gives us that foundation to springboard forward from.”

Paul Stewart also commented:

"I just hope that we learn from our mistakes and not, because of this report, think that by any means our children are safe now."

David Lean urged other sports to take note:

"I want the national governing bodies from other sports to look at this and go, 'are we right?’

"This isn't just about football. If we ring fence football and make it really secure and tight, some of these offenders will look at other ways of getting towards children.”

Moving forward

Sheldon made 13 recommendations for improvement within the report, all of which have been accepted by The FA. Pulling a few of these recommendations out, there are a number of opportunities for all sports to consider:

Engage with Parents

Recommendation 1 asks the FA to encourage all parents to receive tailored safeguarding training, including signs of abuse and grooming and confidence to talk with and listen to children.

Parents play such a vital role in supporting their child to take part in sport and it’s important for clubs to build good, open relationships with parents and enable them to ask questions and get involved.

Offering training and resources will give parents the confidence to be able to spot potential concerns early and question any practices that they feel uncomfortable with.

The CPSU will again be running the Parents in Sport Week campaign in October and this year will be focussing on ensuring parents have the confidence and knowledge they need to identify and report concerns in sport. Further information on this will be published very soon.

Training requirements

Recommendations 2 to 5 look at providing safeguarding training to staff and members at all levels throughout an organisation.

The FA have been consulting with CPSU in development of their training package for a variety of roles across the sport and we have also provided training for the FA board.

We will be liaising across sports organisations to support training developments to ensure that all staff and volunteers have access to appropriate training.

Voice of young people

Recommendation 7 places a particular focus on listening to the voices of young people.

Involving children and young people’s views, experiences and worries can inform, influence and contribute to appropriate decision-making and help to involve and engage young people within your sport.

The CPSU does offer a free e-learning course for coaches, volunteers or anyone involved in the delivery of youth sport. The course shows how you can increase young people's participation in the planning and running of sports activities, and how this benefits everyone. This can help ensure that young people’s voices are heard at the forefront of your sport's decision-making processes.

Club policies

Recommendation 8 requires grassroots clubs to make the safeguarding policy and club welfare officers (CWO) contact details readily available to parents and U18s and remind them about the policy and contacts each season.

There are a number of ways that clubs can ensure this information is made available to everyone:

  • add posters to club/facility noticeboards with the CWO’s name and contact details
  • provide parents with the safeguarding policy and codes of conduct when their child joins the club
  • inform parents about processes to raise, discuss or report concerns or issues about which they're unhappy. Provide this information yearly or sooner if contact details change
  • have regular pre-activity/training session chats with members, reminding them of codes of conduct and encouraging them to speak to someone if they ever have concerns.

It is clear from these recommendations that it’s not just football that can learn from this report and do better to keep children safe. Everybody has a responsibility to continually grow and improve their safeguarding practice.

Now is the time for us to share best practice, draw on people’s expertise and most of all, listen to young people and give them the opportunity and power to speak out in order to develop and improve the sports that they take part in.