Serious issue of child protection is brushed aside

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The Adam Johnson case has pulled into sharp focus the way child protection and safeguarding is considered by some football clubs.

This is even more worrying when you consider the importance football plays in the lives of many young people and the responsibilities players have as role models.

Johnson’s behaviour throughout this sordid affair has been inexcusable and made worse by his not guilty pleas, which forced his young victim to suffer the harrowing experience of giving evidence in court.

However, the NSPCC’s concern lies not in the behaviour of a single individual – although that is itself horrifying – but in the approach taken by Sunderland Football Club when confronted with a serious child protection 
issue.

We are worried this could be a cultural problem within football as a whole and find it concerning clubs may not see incidents such as these as a 
child protection issue.

This is not only about one rogue player that behaved badly, but a club that seemingly did not have child protection priorities embedded into their culture.

It was not equipped to handle these allegations and seemingly did not deal with them appropriately, or indeed seriously.

Furthermore, it is concerning if this is being forgotten by a club at the top level of football.

Clubs should be reminded of the high profile their players hold, be aware of their organisational safeguarding responsibilities to young people and be prepared to act decisively.

The NSPCC has written to the FA to hammer home the message that this kind of behaviour should not be tolerated at any level and certainly not brushed under the carpet.

We want to work with them to ensure their strong measures are embedded into the culture of every club in the country.

Colin Peak

NSPCC Regional Head of 
Service for London 
& the South East

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