Given the serious information that continues to come to light regarding child abuse in football, The FA has commissioned a dedicated NSPCC helpline for adults who were victims of sexual abuse in childhood within the football industry.
The launch of the free, independent helpline follows former footballers Andy Woodward, Steve Walters, David White and Paul Stewart bravely speaking out about the abuse they suffered as young footballers.
Staffed by independent, experienced NSPCC professionals, the helpline will offer support and guidance for adults who were victims of childhood sexual abuse within the game at all levels from grassroots to Premier League and is a safe space for any further whistleblowing.
The helpline will be available 24 hours a day on 0800 023 2642.
Trained staff will offer support, advice and guidance, and will refer cases on to the police or other agencies as appropriate, such as if a child is in immediate danger.
Sue Ravenlaw, The FA's head of equality and safeguarding added: “The courage and dignity being shown by Andy Woodward, Steve Walters, David White 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.
“Anyone who has experienced or is experiencing abuse in football, or who has concerns about children’s welfare, should contact the police or The FA directly, or utilise this specific NSPCC helpline to gain support and advice.”
Referrals of concerns about recent and non-recent abuse should continue to be made directly via the designated persons’ network in football, or directly to The FA’s safeguarding team via firstname.lastname@example.org and a safeguarding professional from the team will make contact.
The English football authorities, led by The FA, work collaboratively on prevention and investigations with the lead officers from the Premier League and the EFL as well as key support from League Football Education, EFL Trust, The Professional Footballers’ Association, League Managers’ Association and all County FA’s .
The FA has a team of safeguarding professionals who put in place preventative measures via policy, education, best practice and support for the network of people acting as Designated Safeguarding Officers (DSOs). Alongside this is a team of safeguarding professionals who manage referrals and concerns, work with the statutory agencies in relation to investigations and put in place safeguards, including suspensions from football activity where necessary, to manage people who pose, or may pose a risk of harm.
There is a network of 8,500 people as DSOs in the professional game and grassroots football, who have been criminal records checked and trained. Their role includes making referrals to the appropriate authorities.
55,000 criminal records checks are carried out across the game each season, to screen out anyone who seeks to work in football who may pose a risk of harm.
35,000 coaches and referees attend The FA’s safeguarding children awareness course each season. Additional welfare officer training is provided to DSOs in the grassroots and bespoke training is delivered by the Premier League and EFL with their respective clubs.
Collectively we work to create safe environments in football and seek to ensure that if there are concerns, people know how and where to report them.