Back in December 2016 all of our youth clubs signed a safeguarding commitment to the FA. We appreciate of course that many of the committee members in our clubs in 2021-22 were not around at that time and may not be aware of the conditions of the commitment.
The primary consideration for clubs under the commitment is that all club personnel on the touchline mirror exactly those listed on the Whole Game System. We know that to have been attached to their junior teams, all volunteers must be DBS and safeguarding education compliant. This is our most important safeguard in determining that football only utilises the services of those deemed fit to work with children and young people.
We are already aware that some clubs are enrolling teams with leagues that are not listed on the Whole Game System. Similarly, coaches’ names are being supplied to leagues that are not the same as those attached to their team on the system. We simply cannot allow this to happen for obvious reasons. From the first weekend in September we will be recommencing our unannounced safeguarding visits as required by the FA. If we find any anomalies between the volunteers we meet on the day and those listed on the database, we will employ the following actions:
• Ask the club to explain the discrepancy
• If the club provides a plausible explanation, we will sign off the visit
• If the club suggests it needs help, we will support and work with the club
• If it is clear there has been a deliberate attempt to circumvent the system, we will liaise with the league to suspend the team’s fixtures until the issue is resolved
• If it is clear the club is not paying sufficient attention to safeguarding, we will suspend the affiliation of the club pending a full safeguarding audit
From October 1st all club DBS applications and renewals will need to start and be completed within the Whole Game System. Many of our clubs are already using this method but for the others there will be a training session for welfare officers and secretaries later this month. It is important all clubs familiarise themselves with this process as the county FA will no longer be able to process DBS checks for anybody other than club welfare officers, referees and unattached coaches. A separate meeting invitation will be issued to all relevant club officials shortly.
We are still seeing too many volunteer DBS certificates expire before the renewal is in place. Those people are in breach of the safeguarding commitment and should have no involvement with their team until the renewal is returned “Accepted.” This creates unnecessary angst for all concerned. It can be best avoided by clubs initiating all renewals three months before the previous check expires, to allow a slight overlap. Again, if welfare officers need support in understanding the process, please let us know and we can arrange some bespoke training.
Safeguarding remains football’s greatest priority and we are very much comforted that the vast majority of clubs and volunteers enthusiastically embrace their responsibilities. By making sure we apply all the best principles of safer recruitment, we can all play a part in making sure that football remains safe, not sorry.