Every year the whole of football in England unites to promote Play Safe – The FA-led countrywide campaign to focus attention on the vital importance of safeguarding across our national game.
Our Play Safe campaign is endorsed by the NSPCC and was supported across every level of English football, including the Premier League, EFL, Barclays Women’s Super League, Barclays Women’s Championship, National League and across the grassroots game.
This year’s Play Safe campaign focussed on the safeguarding role that everyone can play – coaches, players, parents/carers, spectators or volunteers – to keep children and young people safe, no matter what the football setting.
This season we are asking clubs and leagues at every level of the game to make a Play Safe Pledge and to tell us what they are planning to do to make a difference and highlight the importance of safeguarding over the Play Safe weekend. This includes grassroots youth team captains wearing Play Safe armbands and youth team coaches wearing Play Safe pin badges, up and down the country in support.
In addition, as part of this year’s Play Safe campaign, we are also promoting our free online Safeguarding Awareness Course for Parents & Carers to raise awareness around safeguarding and how to report any concerns. Our aim is for 100,000 people from across the game to have taken the course, which only takes 30 minutes to complete, by the end of 2024. The free course provides important information that guides parents and carers through questions they should ask to ensure the club or venue where children play football has the correct safeguarding policies, people and practices in place.
FA Chief Executive, Mark Bullingham, said: "We want everyone involved in football – particularly children and young people – to have a safe, positive and enjoyable experience. English football will come together with leagues and clubs across the country participating in our Play Safe Weekend, taking our Play Safe Pledge to help build awareness and understanding about the importance of safeguarding. We encourage everyone in the game to take part."
The FA’s Survivor Support and Safeguarding Advisory Group [FASSSAG] has added its support to the campaign: "Creating safe environments in every football setting is a collective responsibility. It’s really important that every single person in football – no matter if they’re actively involved or on the sidelines – understands that they have an ongoing role to play. Knowing how to act on any concerns is vital and Play Safe is a key way to ensure everyone is vigilant and knows what to do if they become aware of any inappropriate behaviour."
NSPCC Chief Executive, Peter Wanless, says: "Everyone has a role to play in preventing abuse and we’re pleased that the FA is again putting a spotlight on safeguarding awareness in football through the Play Safe weekend, which ran ahead of Keeping Your Child Safe in Sport Week 2-6 October. It’s great to see Play Safe is supported by every level of the game."
The FA’s Head of Safeguarding, Sue Ravenlaw, said: "The Play Safe campaign has been instrumental in helping us raise awareness for safeguarding across English football. It was very well supported last year, with over one million people reached through some truly innovative activations by many leagues and clubs. Together, with all the football family and the NSPCC, we want to build on that success, and we are encouraging anyone in football to take our Play Safe Pledge to support the campaign.
"Another of our key targets is for 100,000 people to take part in our free online Safeguarding Awareness Course for Parents and Carers by the end of 2024. The feedback that we’ve received from parents and carers is that the course is excellent, so we hope everyone will take the short time it takes to complete it."
Ian Critchley, National Police Chiefs’ Council – Lead for Child Protection and Abuse Investigation said: “The fight against child sexual abuse will never stop, and the Play Safe campaign highlights the focus and priority that society must place on tackling these awful crimes. Policing is working hard to target offenders and safeguard children, but we need everyone to play their part in having conversations with young people, as well as identifying early and reporting those who pose a risk to children.
“We know only too well from courageous victim testimonies of the lifelong harm abuse has on a child, and there is a collective responsibility to prevent it and root out those who commit these appalling acts of abuse. Education is one area that is fundamental to ensuring the safety of young people, and it is really encouraging to see that Play Safe is embraced by so many across the footballing community. This valuable work is fully supported by all of us in policing.”
Furthermore, England’s Sarina Wiegman and Gareth Southgate have backed the FA’s Play Safe campaign for 2023, after signing up to complete the England Football safeguarding awareness course for parents and carers.
The weekend of Saturday 30 September and Sunday 1 October was the Play Safe Weekend for 2023, with clubs across England from the Premier League and Barclays WSL through to grassroots teams all helping to support and raise awareness around the vital importance of safeguarding across the game.
This year’s campaign focused on the safeguarding role that everyone can play – coaches, players, parents/carers, spectators or volunteers – to keep children and young people safe, no matter what the football setting.
And both Lionesses head coach Wiegman and Three Lions manager Southgate have paid their own tribute to the campaign and education around the matter by taking part in our free online Safeguarding Awareness Course for Parents & Carers.
“Football can mean so much to young people,” said Wiegman.
“From that simple pleasure of happy times with friends to understanding the value of team work. Then there is the healthy side of physical exercise, connecting with other people plus the mental benefits of getting outside in the fresh air. When you are coaching children, you need to start with remembering why they love the game and what it means to them. And those of us who have a responsibility for others - coaches, teachers or parents - have to provide the perfect environment for them to play.
"We have to think about our behaviour and the impact our words and actions have on those around us. It is a big responsibility. A nice word about effort or an encouraging cheer means so much, but it can all be undone in an instant by negativity or a harsh reaction. It was good to take the England Football Learning safeguarding awareness course for parents and carers, and to remember just why a positive attitude is so important.”
And Southgate said: “We all start playing football for the love of the game.
“It is about enjoyment, being with your friends and having positive experiences. This should remain the case for as long as we continue to kick a ball. Whatever age we are and whatever the situation, football at heart is about having fun. But unfortunately, there will be some budding players who have these simple pleasures taken away from them through no fault of their own. Being aware of the lasting impact of negative and even abusive behaviour on young people is so important. We all know there are pressures at every level of the game, as there is in life in general, but we need to work as hard as we can to allow children to feel free to express themselves.
"It is on all of us to always remember that special moment when we got that first ball as a birthday present or the excitement of watching our idols on TV and running outside in all weathers to copy their moves. That’s why I have taken the time to complete the safeguarding awareness course for parents and carers on England Football Learning and supported this year’s Play Safe campaign.”
For more information on our Safeguarding Awareness course for Parents and Carers, click here.