Last year, under the conditions of the FA Safeguarding Operating Standard against which we are licensed, we were required to undertake forty six unannounced safeguarding visits of both matches and training sessions.
Due to the commitment of our staff we eventually made almost one hundred visits. The purpose of the visits was to gauge the degree of basic safeguarding knowledge amongst coaches and parents/carers with regards to the identity of the club welfare officer, what to do with a concern, and an understanding of whistleblowing. In addition we were checking that the club was honouring its safeguarding commitment that those on the touchline would exactly mirror those on the Whole Game System.
At every single visit we were welcomed by the clubs and adults present and indeed some commented how positive it was to see the county football association playing such a proactive part in ensuring adequate safeguards were in place. From our perspective it was also very beneficial to see the provision of youth football and to get the opportunity to talk to parents and to the volunteers without whose commitment games could not take place.
Given the positive response to our visits we aim to extend the programme during 2018-19 with well over one hundred visits to be undertaken. In addition to the questions asked last year we will this season be asking the players three very basic questions:
- What do you like most about football?
- What do you like least about football?
- If you had a “magic football” which single thing would you change?
Listening to the views of children is very much a prominent safeguarding priority this year and understanding the concerns and hearing the comments of our youngest stakeholders will most definitely shape our future direction. Our visits will take place literally throughout the county. Most will be carried out by a member of our safeguarding team but some will be undertaken by a football development officer. Our recommendation to all clubs on the eve of the new season is to check to make sure that every individual responsible for children in your teams is accurately reflected on the Whole Game System. Where this does not happen we have a range of responses available from the offer of support right through to whole club suspension. Clearly it is in everybody’s interest to avoid any kind of sanction. We look forward to meeting with you during the next few months and offer our best wishes for a productive and enjoyable season