Motherwell FC to send academy staff for additional training on child sexual abuse

The two-day course, taking place in the summer, will give training in handling potential cases of abuse that could harm children

MOTHERWELL FOOTBALL CLUB will send youth academy staff on a two-day training course this summer in an effort to "break the stigma" of speaking out on incidents of child sexual abuse.

The club is confident that the additional training will boost staff's ability to intervene and act accordingly if they ever feel a child may be at risk.

The move follows recent revelations of decades-long child abuse cases throughout Scottish football and subsequent calls for preventative action in the modern game.

"We hope these training sessions for our academy coaching staff will enhance their knowledge on the subject and will enable them to spot early signs of these incidents occurring with a view for an early intervention." Motherwell FC

A spokesperson at Motherwell told CommonSpace: "We hope these training sessions for our academy coaching staff will enhance their knowledge on the subject and will enable them to spot early signs of these incidents occurring with a view for an early intervention."

The group leading the sessions, Safe to Say, said it had been in talks with Motherwell since Feburary, and that the club was the only one to approach the group for training thus far.

When asked by CommonSpace whether they planned to provide additional training for staff following the historic reports of abuse, representatives from Partick Thistle, Ross County, Hamilton Academical and Aberdeen said they provided strict and robust child protection policies, while providing the appropriate checks on their staff.

CommonSpace did not receive a response from Kilmarnock, St Johnstone, Dundee, Hearts, Celtic or Rangers.

Safe to Say has previous experience of providing training and consultancy to staff who work with survivors of childhood sexual abuse and other traumatic experiences.

Partick Thistle, Ross County, Hamilton Academical and Aberdeen said they provided strict and robust child protection policies, while providing the appropriate checks on their staff.

Sue Hampson, founder of the group, has produced three films on childhood sexual abuse, one of which – Lifting the Lid – won the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film documentary award in 2009.

Speaking of the two-day course with Motherwell, Hampson said: "It is vitally important that people within football do not feel scared to speak about these traumatic experiences. 

"With these training sessions, I want to explore the reasons as to why people stop themselves from saying anything. It is a taboo topic in football."

Recent documentary Football Abuse: The Ugly Side of the Beautiful Game, produced by investigative journalist Mark Daly for the BBC, focused on a series of missed opportunities from authorities and clubs like Rangers, Celtic and Edinburgh-based institution Hutchison Vale – a youth team which developed the likes of Leigh Griffiths, Kenny Miller and John Collins - to stop abuse of young footballers. The documentary recounted stories from more than 20 victims of abuse within Scottish football.

In December 2016, Motherwell opened an internal investigation into alleged abuse involving former physiotherapist, John Hart. The physio is believed to have left the club in the 1980s and later went on to Partick Thistle, who then dismissed him over an abuse allegation in 1992.

CommonSpace did not receive a response from Kilmarnock, St Johnstone, Dundee, Hearts, Celtic or Rangers.

Hart reportedly died in 1995, without facing a criminal conviction.

According to another BBC Scotland investigation carried out in December 2016, former youth coach and referee, Hugh Stevenson, was allowed to carry on working in football despite several years of reports to the police and the SFA.

Following the BBC investigation a CommonSpace reader, who wised to remain anonymous, bravely wrote of an incident involving Stevenson during the 1960s.

In a statement, the Scottish Football Assosiation said: "We urge anyone who has suffered abuse to come forward using the dedicated, confidential NSPCC 24-hour helpline 0800 023 2624, directly to come to the police on 101 or via email to Scottish FA at childrenswellbeing@scottishfa.co.uk."

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article and would like further information or advice in confidence, you can visit the Survivors UK website or Rape Crisis Scotland for support.

Picture courtesy of Ludovic

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