SCOTTISH youth football chiefs had until recently no oversight of child protection issues according to a new review that also criticises the system that governed background checks on coaches.
The Children 1st report reveals “a lack of transparency” in the Scottish Youth Football Association (SYFA) on safeguarding provision and “a lack of sufficient challenge” by Scottish football’s governing body, the SFA.
And it called for “robust” monitoring to be put in place and claimed that until recently there was “little evidence…of partnership working or co-operation” between the SFA and the SYFA.
But Children 1st highlighted concerns that until recently nobody on the board of the SYFA had oversight on the safeguarding of children.
It added: “The board of any sports organisation in which children and young people are participating has overall accountability for safeguarding provision. Best practice involves identifying a lead for safeguarding matters at board level. Until recently there was no SYFA board member who had oversight of this important area.”
“This has resulted in the board not being sufficiently aware of child wellbeing and protection issues within the SYFA, including the recent volume of outstanding PVG (Protecting Vulnerable Groups checks) applications.”
The PVG checks are carried out by Disclosure Scotland which searches databases, including criminal records, to ensure any individual is not banned from working with children.
The SYFA had previously allowed coaches to be granted “provisional membership” while checks were being carried out, but it the practices is to be ended in April next year.
In the wake of child sex abuse cases in youth football it emerged 2,500 youth football coaches in Scotland did not have full background checks.
It is estimated around 16,000 volunteers are involved in delivering football to 60,000 children and young people in the 3,300 clubs affiliated to the SYFA.
Children 1st’s independent review looking into the recruitment of youth football coaches says nobody should be allowed to work with children without having undergone proper background checks first.
Mary Glasgow, interim chief executive of Children 1st said: “Robustly assessing the suitability of volunteers and other officials is a key element in keeping children and young people safe from harm. It is simply unacceptable for any adult who has not been suitably assessed to be left alone with children and young people.
“Individuals within clubs, the SYFA , other football associations and the Scottish FA, need to be clear about their responsibilities to ensure children can enjoy football safely and there must be clear lines of accountability at every level of football.”
Children 1st said in a report: “The findings of this review indicate that there have been inadequacies in both which has resulted in problems with the PVG process, and inconsistencies in appointment and selection practice across the sport.”
The body said a ‘command and control’ culture within the SYFA, together with the “lack of co-operation” between it and the SFA have been a barrier to the football governing body being aware of the scale of the PVG “processing problems”.
Children 1st’s Safeguarding in Sport service, which was commissioned by the SFA to carry out the review made 13 recommendations including calling for the SYFA to include a board member whose remit includes safeguarding children.
It said SYFA board members should participate in a basic child wellbeing and protection awareness-raising session and they should appoint a Child Wellbeing and Protection Officer to provide an operational lead on safeguarding.
The practice of Provisional Membership should be ended “ensuring that no adult is appointed into regulated work with children and young people until they have been confirmed as a PVG Scheme Member”, said the report.
All the recommendations were accepted by the Scottish FA and the SYFA who said an implementation plan had been developed for each recommendation.
Children 1st said the SFA had already been implementing some of the recommendations and the remainder would be completed in the first half of 2018.
SYFA chairman John McCrimmond said: “We’ve made enormous progress in recent months and are very confident the detailed and comprehensive plans we have agreed with the Scottish FA will ensure we achieve the highest possible standards for safeguarding in youth sport in Scotland.”