Footballers abused when young ‘suffering in silence’

Children's Commissioner Tam Baillie believes youth players remain at risk. Picture: John Devlin
Children's Commissioner Tam Baillie believes youth players remain at risk. Picture: John Devlin
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Former footballers who were abused while youth players at Scottish clubs are suffering in silence, MSPs will be told this week.

A Holyrood inquiry into child abuse carried out on young footballers will also hear that professional clubs are still not doing enough to protect youngsters from predatory attackers

On Tuesday MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s health and sport committee will hear evidence from children’s charities and people involved in the game.

Evidence from the Professional Football Association Scotland submitted to the committee in advance suggests some abuse victims are unwilling to speak about their experiences.

“PFA Scotland has received a small number of calls from ex professionals who have been victims of historic abuse but we have heard anecdotally that there are more ex professionals who are victims but not willing to come forward,” a document prepared by PFA Scotland says.

“This may be as their family and friends are unaware or they may not wish their name to become public, which is always a chance when there is such media scrutiny.”

In his evidence, Children’s Commissioner Tam Baillie expressed concern that abusers could take advantage of the way clubs are run.

“My main concern is the power imbalance and unfair treatment of children involved with professional football clubs. This places the professional football clubs in a very powerful position with children desperate to realise their dreams and as a result, vulnerable to exploitation. In my experience, the system in place gives scant regard to the best interests of the children involved.

“When a child knows that if they make a complaint they will no longer be able to participate in a sport they love, it is little wonder that many concerns and complaints do not see the light of day. Abusers seek situations where there are power imbalances, vulnerable children and opportunities for unsupervised access to children. For this reason, all sports bodies should review their procedures to ensure that proper checks are initiated and maintained on those engaged with children and young people.”

He added: “My office has in the past had enquiries from children who have raised concerns [not about abuse] and they have simply been told by their club to leave.”