This weekend has been designated as The FA’s Play Safe weekend for this season.
Play Safe is football national campaign to focus attention on the vital importance of safeguarding in our National game, raising greater awareness of the safeguarding practice and culture within clubs and organisations and increasing understanding of the vital role we all play in Safeguarding the game within Cumberland.
As the Senior Safeguarding Lead and Chief Executive of Cumberland FA, I am acutely aware of our role and everyday commitment to embedding and improving safeguarding practices and procedures, to ultimately create safe and positive football environments, particularly for our young players and adults at risk.
A few years ago, I attended a safeguarding session delivered by survivors of non-recent abuse from within football, including David White and Paul Stewart.
It was clear from their accounts that they were not confident in speaking out, felt powerless and were fearful of doing so. Their stories, and those that were presented within the powerful BBC documentary, and also can be witnessed within The FA’s recently release video, also suggest that no one actively listened to these children and young people.
When I was young I, like a lot of you and those survivors, dreamed of being a footballer. Whilst I never made it, I did develop a lifelong love of the game. It was therefore devastating to think that something that I loved so much could cause others so much pain. Right then and there I vowed to do everything I could to ensure that we protected those playing the game. However, I understand that I cannot do this alone and need everyone else who shares my passion for the game, regardless of your role, to play their part as safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility. This includes having clear processes and procedures, regularly discussing safeguarding, maintaining your own knowledge through asking questions, training and education and most importantly understanding how to report any concerns you may have.
On top of this, I personally believe that core to safeguarding is listening, and I mean really listening, to our young players.
The FA released, as part of the Play Safe campaign, a video on why kids worry. This is in line with feedback that we received from our own voice of kids’ event that was delivered at Workington AFC.
The feedback received from young local players was that the ‘biggest negative of football’ was ‘negative shouting from spectators', which they described as leaving them feeling like they were under ‘pressure’.
This was on top of other area that they highlighted as pressure. The pressure to not let team-mates/friends down. The pressure from the game itself to save/score/tackle.
As adults we can and must listen to them, as they also told us it would help them if they had ‘encouragement and positivity from spectators and coaches’.
If we take this on board and work together, we can create a positive environment for all, where children and adults at risk are safeguarded, feel confident to speak up if they are not ok, but are also able to develop to play at the highest level they can through developing that lifelong love of the game.
As a staff team we will be out and about and grassroots games this weekend and would like to thank you all for your ‘positive’ support.