SAFEGUARDING CHILDREN IN FOOTBALL
For those of you who are involved in the wonderful world of junior/youth football, you will know that we have a large number of referees who are under the age of 18. All referees have to start somewhere and some start at the age of 14.
My son wanted to be a referee from the age of 10 and was delighted when he could complete his training in August 2019. We were always aware that referees would not always face a ‘friendly’ crowd during their games, but nothing prepared either myself or him for his first game. It was a 9 v 9 game for 2 U12’s teams. The verbal abuse and intimidation he faced from 2 adult coaches shocked us both. He was shouted at, intimidated, berated throughout the game for decisions he made and I myself witnessed one of the coaches kicking a water bottle and goal post in anger, as well as hearing him say ‘He is f**king useless’ about my son.
All of this because he missed an offside in the 10th minute!
We spoke to our CFA, who talked us through the process of reporting. As a parent, I fully expected the CFA to investigate, actively request statements from witnesses and support a child who had been abused and intimidated. Unfortunately, I was wrong. It was all about the process from the CFA.
I received a phone call to say that my 14 year old son would have to attend a personal hearing (via WebEx) and answer questions regarding his statement. I was informed that he may be disciplined if he didn’t attend.
This is where my question about safeguarding comes up.
What organisation thinks that threatening children with disciplinary action is ok and is not a safeguarding issue? What organisation expects them to be put back in a situation to answer questions in front of the 2 adults who abused and intimidated them in the first place?
I work in HR and we would never put someone who had been abused or intimidated in this situation HR would never interview the perpetrator and victim at the same time nor in the same room. We would conduct a thorough investigation and we would always have a duty of care to the ‘victim’.
I feel passionate that safeguarding has to be put at the heart of ‘children’ in football and especially our young referees. I would like to look at how this whole processed can be changed to ensure the welfare, wellbeing and safeguarding of young referees.
I am in the process of collating experiences from young referees and their parents, as well as Ref’s Association’s and junior football leagues. You can help to change this process by completing a questionnaire for me.
Summaries from my responses will be in confidence (no names will be used).
If you are an U18 referee, please ensure you have permission from your parents/guardian.