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The tarnishing of the beautiful game

After the football child abuse scandal report was published last week, much more needs to be done to protect our children, says Ellis Rosen

Anyone who has children will tell you that the minute they are born, their welfare rather than your own becomes your number one priority…

To that end, we nurture and protect, but we also have to place trust in other individuals as they are growing up, as that is part of life. 

Last week saw the long-awaited publication of the football child abuse scandal report investigated and written by my childhood friend Clive Sheldon QC. At the time when most of the abuse occurred (during the 70s and 80s), Clive was a keen football fan and so conversant of the times and the culture and environment that existed. 

Times have changed, regulations have changed and employers can and do use DBS checks, child sex registers and the like, to ensure as best they can that kids are not placed into a vulnerable situation. 

What was so shocking, in a similar way to the revelations about Jimmy Saville, Stuart Hall and so on, was that this whole issue did not really come to light until decades after most of the abuse had occurred. The report confirms that there were many rumours and concerns not properly acted upon at the time, but in the main, the kids, who were almost exclusively boys, either felt too scared to mention the abuse to their parents, or they felt that their dreams of becoming professionals would die if they did not comply. 

Most, if not all, were mentally scarred and this evidence is clearly shown in the BBC programmes fronted by the excellent Victoria Derbyshire, in which many of them opened up and spoke out. 

But it is not just football. British Gymnastics is facing an unprecedented group-claim lawsuit from 17 former gymnasts, mainly female, who allege there was widespread physical and psychological abuse deployed by coaches on children as young as six as part of a “win at all costs” mentality in the sport. 

This follows the huge scandal in the USA where Larry Nassar, the former USA gymnastics national team doctor was incarcerated for multiple sex crimes against mostly very young girls under his care. And it’s not just the effect it has on the girls, but also their families who feel let down and in many cases blame themselves for placing too much trust in ‘the system’.

There are other sports too, but I want to turn attention to the trust that parents should implicitly have in school teachers. We read numerous stories of teachers having affairs or acting inappropriately with minors, some of these teachers are married, quite often they are women wooing under aged boys who are often having their first sexual experience and may also feel or be coerced into believing that their grades will be enhanced. 

For a 15 year old boy, that is one hell of a temptation and the teachers play on that for their own perverted gratification. 

Again, it is fair to say that controls in place these days are far better than the past, but this is still a big issue. If parents cannot trust those to whom they place their children in care, then concerns will continue to exist. Punishments need to be harsh to send out reminders that nothing of this nature is acceptable and kids need to be better educated on how to react should they be approached in the wrong way. Parents need to also be educated on how to see the warning signs before it’s too late.

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Ellis Rosen

Ellis Rosen has worked in the UK travel industry for 27 years, focusing mostly on the travel of fans and teams to the UK. He is not a professional writer, but has an in depth knowledge of all sports worldwide, as well as the travel industry. He has visited every continent and watched cricket in Australia and football in Argentina. He is 52, lives in east London and is also a qualified Chartered Accountant.

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