Police Scotland meets SFA over football abuse claims

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Police Scotland and the Scottish Football Association (SFA) have held talks to discuss allegations of child sex abuse within the sport.

Football has been shaken by claims from former players that they were abused by those in positions of authority.

The deputy first minister has called for the SFA to set up an independent inquiry.

Following the meeting, Police Scotland said it was the "investigative authority" for any reports of abuse.

The force said it was working with partnership organisations, including the SFA and the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) Scotland, to explore further ways of engaging with people who may have information about child sexual abuse within football.

From Huw Williams, BBC Scotland news reporter

Police Scotland confirmed the meeting took place but have stressed that they are the investigatory authority if there are allegations of sex abuse in football or anywhere else

So presumably that means that - at least at this stage - there will be no separate independent enquiry set up by the SFA.

And one survivors' group has told me that, for the first time, they've been invited to meet the SFA and the PFA in Glasgow, possibly as soon as tomorrow.

This chimes with the Police Scotland statement which says they want to look at further ways to engage with people who might be able to help their investigation.

Police forces from across the UK, including Police Scotland, are now looking into claims of historical sexual abuse within football.

More than 80 potential suspects and 98 clubs are involved, police chiefs have said.

On Friday, a BBC Scotland investigation revealed that former youth coach and referee Hugh Stevenson was allowed to carry on working in football for several years after being reported to police and the SFA over child sex offences.

After Monday's meeting, Det Ch Supt Lesley Boal, head of public protection at Police Scotland, said: "Police Scotland has met with a range of partners organisations over the last few weeks, including the SFA and the PFA Scotland to discuss our individual and collective ongoing commitment to those who have found the courage to report child sexual abuse within football.

"The intention of this group includes exploring further ways to engage with people who may have information about or may wish to report child sexual abuse within football.

"The group will assess how we can respond to any concerns at local community level and today's meeting cemented our lines of communication which will allow that information to be assessed in a timely and effective manner."

She added: "Police Scotland is however the investigatory authority in terms of any reports received with regard to child sexual abuse in football. Tackling child sexual crime and the abuse of children is a priority for Police Scotland."

Survivors' group White Flowers Alba has urged the Scottish government to set up a wide-ranging inquiry into child sex abuse.

Speaking on The Kaye Adams Programme, Andi Lavery, from the group, said: "The SFA can't police itself. It's up to the government to take leadership.

"We are a victims' group. As children we weren't listened to, as adults we aren't being listened to."

The English Football Association has commissioned an independent investigation into the way it dealt with abuse allegations and there have been calls for the SFA to set up a similar review.

Speaking on the BBC's Sunday Politics Scotland programme, the deputy first minister said he favoured such a move.

He added: "It should be conducted by an authoritative, independent, respected figure who will be able to look at these issues without fear or favour, and to examine all of the issues to the satisfaction of the wider debate within Scotland."

Image caption John Swinney told BBC Scotland the SFA should consider setting up an independent inquiry

SNP MSP James Dornan told The Kaye Adams Programme he agreed that the SFA should set up and fund an independent inquiry.

He rejected calls to extend the Scottish government's inquiry into the abuse of children in care.

"If we continue to widen the inquiry, we will never get the conclusions that survivors demand and are entitled to," he said.

In a statement on Sunday, the SFA said: "We are open to the possibility of an independent review but with the right scope and terms of reference."

Opposition parties have called for the Scottish government, rather than the SFA, to take the lead on any inquiry.

Former Scottish justice minister Cathy Jamieson told BBC Radio Scotland it may be time for a wider inquiry into the historical sex abuse of children in Scotland, which the Scottish government or Holyrood could take the lead on.

"There will be, inevitably, some other organisation, or some other sphere, where historical abuse will raise its head," she said.

Speaking on the Good Morning Scotland programme, she added: "That is why it would be important to have an over-arching look at all these inquiries, and if government won't do that, and I believe they could have a role to do this, then perhaps the Parliament should step up and do it."

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