FA issues ‘heartfelt’ apology to child sex abuse victims on ‘dark day for the game’

The Football Association issued a ‘heartfelt apology’ to football’s child sex abuse victims today following the publication of a hard-hitting report on the scandal.

An extensive four-year investigation has delivered a damning verdict on game’s governing body as well as some of English football’s top clubs.

The FA ‘did not do enough to keep children safe’ from sex abuse in football, a hard-hitting report revealed today.

It also praises the countless victims for coming forward to give evidence against a string of coaches.

Led by Clive Sheldon QC, the Independent Report into Child Sexual Abuse in Football found that there was no guidance provided to those working within football on ‘child protection matters’ – even after coaches were taken to court.

Despite high profile convictions from 1995 to May 2000, – including against the game’s most notorious paedophile Barry Bennell – it found the FA should have done more to keep children safe.

Those in charge of the national game failed to halt Bennell and ex-Southampton coach Bob Higgins from their involvement in the game.

The report identified at least 240 suspects and 692 survivors. But it warns that the actual number of victims was likely to be ‘far higher’.

Now the FA have responded in a statement and chief executive Mark Bullingham said: “Today is a dark day for the beautiful game.

“One in which we must acknowledge the mistakes of the past and ensure that we do everything possible to prevent them being repeated.

“Today I address the Survivors directly, as the people that matter most. To them I say: You have the deepest admiration of the FA. Your bravery throughout this process has been incredible. Your voices have been so powerful.

“I’d like to start by giving a heartfelt apology on behalf of the Football Association and the English game to all Survivors, that this happened to you within football. No child should ever have experienced the abuse you did.

“What you went through was horrific and it is deeply upsetting that more was not done by the game at the time, to give you the protection you deserved.”

He went on: “There’s a famous quote that says: ‘For evil to flourish simply requires that good people do nothing’. There are too many examples of that throughout this report. There is no excuse.

“While we recognise how courageous it was for you to come forward, it’s important to recognise that good has come from this bravery.

“You have been trailblazers in shining a spotlight on the horrifying abuse that you suffered while playing the game you loved. Without your testimonies, we would not have this understanding, and I would personally like to thank you all for your involvement, contributions and your honesty.

“And, to English football, I say. This has to be a critical moment for us. We must do everything we can to ensure that we learn the lessons, and never see a repeat of this abuse.”