Almost 1,000 coaches and officials working in youth football in Scotland have not completed full background checks, MSPs have been told.
The Scottish Youth Football Association (SYFA) said 949 of its recruits have not yet been vetted through the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme.
The figure emerged during a meeting of Holyrood’s health and sport committee where football bodies were giving evidence on child protection in sport.
The PVG scheme carries out background checks on individuals to ensure their suitability to work with children, and is managed through government agency Disclosure Scotland.
SYFA chief executive David Little said the outstanding PVG checks are a result of the high level of churn of its 15,000 or so volunteers who help run its 39 leagues and coach 60,000 registered players.
Mr Little said: “We have a churn of anywhere between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of our members on a yearly basis, which causes great difficulties. It’s not as if we’ve got members who are going to be there year in, year out. There will always be people to be checked. This is indicative to sport in general, not just football, that there is this churn of officials.”
Mr Little said up to 1,000 checks can be required each month, with the system for processing these run by volunteers. Any official who has not yet completed the PVG process is classed as a provisional member and is not permitted to have unrestricted access to players.
Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said the “weak link in the chain” is what happens while coaches are waiting for the PVG check to come through. “I would suggest that that’s a risk,” he said.
Mr Little added: “As long as we have PVG checks outstanding, I am concerned.”
The evidence session on child protection in sport follows a series of allegations of historical abuse in football.
Police Scotland is investigating 130 reports of child sexual abuse in the sport.
A number of professional clubs have started internal investigations, while the Scottish Football Association (SFA) is setting up an independent review.
Andrew McKinlay of the SFA said the review will also consider the PVG process at the SYFA and how it is run and funded. He said: “We feel there is a lack of consistency potentially across the membership.”
The NSPCC has, with the FA, launched a dedicated helpline on the issue: 0800 023 2642.