• Wednesday, April 24, 2024


‘The FA does not reflect our society’

ONE of Britain’s top prosecutors has revealed he spoke to sporting authorities about sexual abuse against children in 2014 but they insisted it was not a problem.

Nazir Afzal said the Football Association (FA), governing body FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) told him the guidance they had written on the issue “was working”.

The sport has been rocked by allegations from ex-footballers that they were molested by their coach when they were youth players.

Police forces across the UK said at least 83 potential suspects had been identified with 98 teams affected. Sussex Police became the latest this week to investigate claims.

Afzal, former chief crown prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service, told Eastern Eye: “I raised safeguarding of children from abuse with FIFA, the FA and the IOC.

“They all said they had guidance and they were satisfied it was working.”

He added: “I spoke about football but nobody was listening. I had prosecuted teachers that taught PE. When you have got that power situation with a child, there is a significant risk they will suffer harm.

“After Rochdale [child grooming case in 2012], people said to me you are courageous for doing this. The victims that come forward, the girls, they were the courageous ones.

“It’s the same with the footballers, it takes great courage to say you have been harmed.”

A helpline for abuse victims set up by The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has received more than 1,700 calls since it was launched in November.

Andy Woodward, a former professional player, broke his silence on being molested in the 1980s which led to dozens of men coming forward to speak about their ordeal. It has led to the FA launching its own probe.

Terry Singh, a football coach in Leicester, said the FA is “out of date” and needs to be overhauled to tackle the issues facing the sport.

Singh, who has been involved in the sport for over 20 years, told Eastern Eye: “The [FA] was still in the dark ages, we didn’t hear anything.

“This kind of sexual abuse is new. The victims are coming out now after the Jimmy Savile abuse case. The FA doesn’t reflect the multicultural society we live in. Everything has been swept under the carpet.

“Heather Rabbatts from the FA is making noises but it’s not enough, we have to get the politicians involved.”

He added: “Heads should roll as the football clubs need to address it and come clean and not cover it up like it did. The FA has to cooperate with those clubs in mind, set a standard and support victims.”

Rosena Allin-Khan MP, the shadow minister for sport, wrote to the government seeking assurance that it will include sports and leisure groups when it introduces new proposals on the mandatory duty to report abuse.

The Labour MP for Tooting in London said: “The sheer number of calls the NSPCC has received is truly shocking. My thoughts are with the victims, their courage and bravery has brought this issue to light.

Allin-Khan added: “The government must now ensure police are given the resources needed to carry out urgent and thorough investigations.”

In December, it emerged that the FA was warned in 2002 of child sex abuse claims in a report by the Child Protection in Football Research Project.

It found 14 different cases of sex abuse referrals between 1999 and August 2002, and 16 people convicted of sexual offences working in the game.

The FA has asked a QC to conduct an internal review into the findings.

It added that positive measures have been introduced since then to ensure young people were protected.

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