People abused in football as a child urged to call helpline and get support
The NSPCC has launched a free helpline to support anyone who was abused in football as a child.
The helpline, supported by the FA, was launched after former professional footballers Andy Woodward, Steve Walters and Paul Stewart spoke out about the abuse they suffered as young footballers.
“The courage and dignity being shown by Andy Woodward, Steve Walters and Paul Stewart is immense. We join Andy, the police and others in the continued efforts to encourage more victims and survivors to come forward. We urge people to utilise this specific NSPCC helpline to gain support and advice,” said Sue Ravenlaw, Head of Equality and Safeguarding, the FA.
New figures show that boys are over five times less likely to contact Childline about sexual abuse than girls. In 2015/16, where gender was known, 16% of counselling sessions about sexual abuse were with boys compared to 84% with girls.
Football locker rooms and clubs are traditionally very masculine and male environments, meaning it can be difficult for players to talk out about sexuality or abuse. The NSPCC and the FA are urging players and others involved in football, from those just starting out to Premier League, to speak out using the helpline.
Staffed by independent, experienced NSPCC practitioners, the helpline offers support and guidance for those who've experienced childhood sexual abuse within the game.
The charity is urging parents to ensure the safety of their children when taking part in clubs or activities by finding out the following details before a child joins:
- Is there a child protection policy?
Every organisation should know how children will be kept safe. If there isn't a written policy then you may want to think about whether you want your child to join.
- Who do you speak to if you're worried about anything?
It's important you know who to talk to if there's anything that's worrying you.
- Is there a written code of conduct for coaches and volunteers?
You want to know that the people who will be in charge of your child have a set of rules and requirements they have to follow.
- What happens when your child has to travel to "away" events?
Sometimes your child might have to go on trips with the club. They should have a policy that covers things like the recommended ratio of adults to children and how travel will be arranged between locations.
- Are all staff trained, qualified and police checked to work with young people?
The club should be able to confirm all the necessary checks have been completed.
- How are health and safety issues handled?
For example, is there always a trained first aider on hand and are all the fire exits marked and easy to open?
- What's the policy if a child needs personal care?
If anyone from the club ever has to do anything that a parent would normally do, like taking a young child to the toilet, it's important that they have guidelines that have to be followed.
Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “There must be no hiding place for sexual abuse in our national game and there may be many others who suffered through such horrors as young players but have never come forward.
“As this week's revelations have laid bare, people must be able to speak out and get the help they need, and we know that can often be more difficult for men and boys.
“We welcome the FA's commitment to helping those in the game get the help and support they need,” he added.
Further useful information about good practice can be found here: Child Protection in Sport Unit.