Football Child Sex Abuse - Institutional Failings by Football Association

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Liam Goggin

Partner, Head of Abuse Claims

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An independent review into historical child sexual abuse in football has found “significant institutional failings” by the Football Association in keeping children safe from abuse. The review, led by Clive Sheldon QC, looked into the abuse of children in football between 1970 and 2005, and the results have been long-awaited.

The scandal first emerged in 2016 when former Crewe player, Andy Woodward, spoke publicly about his abuse. Since then, several other victims have come forward and former football coaches have been charged. 

Many victims felt they couldn’t speak up about their abuse at the time because of threats made to their family and confidentiality clauses included in their contracts. Sadly, it’s all too common for victims of child abuse to feel unable to open up about their abuse until much later in adulthood.

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What Did the Report Find?

The report argued that the Football Association “could and should have done more to keep children safe” after several prolific coaches were convicted. The offenders include:

  • Barry Bennell
  • George Ormond
  • Eddie Heath
  • Bob Higgins
  • Michael ‘Kit’ Carson
  • Ted Langford
  • Frank Roper
  • Phil Edwards

692 abuse survivors have come forward and at least 240 suspects have been identified, but it’s thought that the number of victims could be much higher.

Since 2000, the report states that “The FA acted far too slowly to introduce appropriate and sufficient child protection measures, and to ensure that safeguarding was taken sufficiently seriously by those involved in the game. These are significant institutional failings for which there is no excuse.”

It also draws attention to the fact that the Football Association failed to ban Bennell and Higgins – two of the most notorious child sex abusers.

Safeguarding Recommendations

The review has made 13 recommendations for the future safeguarding of children in football, which include:

  • Introducing safeguarding training at all levels, including all players and young people, the FA board and senior management
  • Employing safeguarding officers within all Premier League and English Football League clubs

“Survivors deserve to be listened to, and their suffering deserves to be properly recognised,” says Sheldon QC.

“As well as recognising and facing up to what happened in the past, it is also important that this terrible history is not repeated, and that everything possible is done now to safeguard the current and future generations of young players.”

Our Abuse Solicitors are pleased to see that measures are being taken to protect young footballers, and we hope this review forces football clubs to take the appropriate safeguarding steps needed to prevent further child abuse from happening.

“It’s frustrating that it’s taken this long for safeguarding measures to be put in place, and our thoughts go out to all the victims who should have been protected as children,” says Senior Associate Solicitor, Liam Goggin.

“It can be very challenging for victims of sports abuse to come forward, especially at a time when they feel their future in football is on the line. As a keen football player myself, who used to play semi-professionally, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been when you’ve got a love for the sport.”

“We want to encourage anyone who’s suffering to reach out for support, no matter how long ago the abuse took place.”

Support from Simpson Millar

If you’ve experienced historic child sex abuse at a football club, team or sports centre, we can help you get the support you need to begin the healing process. We understand that the thought of coming forward can feel daunting, but we want you to know that your voice will be heard.

Our Abuse Solicitors have supported victims abused by Frank Roper and Barry Bennell, and we encourage anyone who has been affected by abuse to reach out. We can help you report your abuse to the police and get the compensation and justice you deserve.

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