HOW BIG IS THE CHILD ABUSE PROBLEM IN SPORT? SHOULD FOOTBALL CLUBS SET UP A TREATMENT FUND?
The Sunday Times carried a short piece about the English Cricket Board calling in a former police chief to review child protection procedures. Apparently some nine coaches have been "unmasked" as paedophiles. There had been convictions of football coaches prior to the disclosures that broke around a month ago.
The BBC today had a series of stories on the abuse of children in other sports, including karate and tennis.
Should we therefore prepare for a flood of disclosures from other areas of sport?
The answer to this is that football figures very large on the national stage, not only in terms of adult and child players, but also by reason of the huge amount of money that flows in and out of the sport. Other sports have less of a profile, although abuse in any sport is a serious concern. In some way, smaller sports clubs will also be vulnerable where lack of resources can sometimes make it difficult to comply with the law. It is these kinds of small organisation that abusers will target.
In any event, the extent of the problem in football can only become more apparent. There is now a challenge for football clubs to open their doors, and being offering support to those who were abuse whilst under their care. This can be done without the club having to admit liability for what has happened.
I saw that approach adopted many years ago, by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets when they dealt with the group action brought by former residents of St Leonard's Cottage Homes. Survivors were offered therapy at the Tavistock Centre in London, and many took this offer up. I have also seen the Catholic Church adopt the same policy, and it can be very beneficial.
At the same time there must be enough money in football to set up a treatment fund, delivered directly to those who need it, and supervised by qualified therapists. Individual clubs could keep survivors updated with information as to what they are doing in relation to any ongoing police investigation or an internal investigation.
Chelsea put out a comprehensive statement of what they were doing on the 3rd December 2016.
Crewe Alexandra have put out a short statement to the effect that they are launching an internal inquiry into the way that historical abuse allegations have been investigated.
More needs to be done. Clubs need to reach out to survivors. They should never walk alone.