SFA says system to protect young footballers from abuse ‘ineffective’

The SFA has backed calls for an overhaul of the system.
The SFA has backed calls for an overhaul of the system.
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Scottish football’s governing body has backed calls for an urgent overhaul of the system used to vet those who work with children.

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) said the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme is “ineffective” and agreed with MSPs that it may not be weeding out “unsuitable people”.

The comments came after the convener of the Scottish Parliament’s health and sport committee, Labour MSP Neil Findlay, accused the SFA on being “asleep on the job” when it came to child protection.

In a report published yesterday, the Holyrood committee said the PVG system – which registers people who work with children – needed to be strengthened.

The MSPs began their inquiry after allegations emerged late last year of young footballers being abused by coaches. An investigation by the BBC later found that 2,500 youth football coaches in Scotland did not have full background checks.

A Scottish Government review of the PVG system is anticipated to take 12 months, with new legislation potentially in place by 2019.

However, MSPs said action was required now, and argued there was a “compelling” case for the scheme to be made mandatory for all sports organisations in Scotland.

In a statement yesterday, the SFA said: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s recognition that the current format of the PVG scheme is ineffective at present and may not be preventing unsuitable people from doing regulated work. We are in full agreement that this situation should be ­rectified.

“From the moment allegations of child sexual abuse in Scottish football were raised last year, we have been proactive in taking the necessary measures – in partnership with the relevant authorities – to deal with these alleged cases of historic abuse, but also to give confidence to young players and their families that Scottish football is a safe environment in 2017.”

It added: “We believe we have demonstrated the seriousness of our intentions and therefore strongly refute and do not recognise Mr Findlay’s own personal opinions.

“The committee will surely recognise the importance of devolved responsibility, sitting as it does in the Scottish Parliament, and therefore understand better than most that the Scottish Youth FA has jurisdiction over youth football in Scotland.”

A SYFA spokesman said: “We have tightened our procedures in recent months and are among the very best-­performing youth sports bodies in the country when it comes to ensuring Disclosure Scotland checks are carried out in a timely fashion.”