Scotland

Football sex abuse in Scotland: Almost 300 crimes recorded

child playing football Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Allegations of abuse have been made by former players across the UK

Police Scotland have said 298 crimes have so far been recorded in their investigation into football-related sexual abuse.

Officers have identified 153 abuse victims and charged 13 people since the inquiry was launched in November 2016.

A senior officer investigating the abuse said the "courage" of those coming forward was appreciated.

Police said there were 167 instances of people giving information about historical sex abuse.

Everyone who reported abuse or provided information has now been contacted by the force.

The Scottish Football Association has set up an independent review tasked with examining child protection "processes and procedures" in place both currently and historically in Scottish football.

Reporting abuse

Det Ch Insp Sarah Taylor said: "While the single investigation into those named during our inquiries has concluded, we appreciate how difficult it can be to report abuse.

"We want to thank everyone who came forward and reported, we understand the courage it took and how difficult this must have been.

"Our assurance to anyone who has not felt able to report during this time is that if they wish to report in the future, we will listen; we will investigate regardless of where or when the abuse occurred, and we will take prompt action to ensure that no-one else is at risk of harm."

She stressed the police would look into all information provided to them, adding: "Investigations of this nature are highly complex".

"Police Scotland has dedicated, highly-trained and specialised officers, who work closely with other agencies to ensure that support and advocacy services are available to meet individual needs, during investigation.

"We would ask anyone who has concerns or information about any person who may pose a risk to children or who may have abused a child to contact Police Scotland."

Scotland's former Children and Young People's Commissioner, Tam Baillie, said the key thing to recognise was the "power imbalance" between the football clubs and the children involved.

'Voices not being heard'

He told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "The children have got dreams of being football players, the clubs are their access to those dreams and that really creates a very big power imbalance.

"There has to be acknowledgement of that. There also has to be acknowledgement about how people who seek to abuse children look out for power imbalance; children not being listened to, their voices not being heard, silence of victims.

"And when you've got those circumstances combined with unsupervised access, they are the very circumstances that abusers seek to exploit in terms of harming children."

He added: "The vast majority of people involved in football are there for good reasons. They are there because they want to nurture talent; they are there because they want to give freely of their time.

"The key thing is to make sure we have processes and systems in place that can identify when people would choose to exploit that.

"My call is for the governing bodies (the SFA and the SPFL) to take the power imbalance much more seriously and demonstrate that they will listen to children and respect children's rights.

"And that, if there are things that children feel uncomfortable with or are not right, they are confident of raising this, it will get heard and something will be acted upon."

An NSPCC Scotland spokesman said the figures from Police Scotland confirmed the "deeply disturbing extent" of the abuse that had taken place within football.

He added: "The NSPCC's own dedicated football abuse helpline has itself received more than 2,500 calls from across the UK since this scandal began.

"It's vital that victims feel safe to come forward and that all allegations of abuse in Scottish football are thoroughly investigated."‎

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