By Bill Heaney
Scotland’s Minister for Sport Mairi Gougeon has described a new report on sex abuse of young footballers “provides appalling and harrowing testimonies of historical sexual abuse and it will be shocking for anyone who reads it”.
She commend the courage of all the individuals who came forward to tell their stories.
Sports Minister Mairi Gougon – “We encourage anyone who has experienced sexual abuse to come forward.”
Ms Gougon added: “The independent review found that most of the people who suffered sexual abuse did not tell anyone else at the time and that on the rare occasions when it was reported to organisations or clubs little or no action was taken.
“That is tremendously distressing and has had a profound and long-lasting impact on those who were abused.
“The review accepts that knowledge and practices were markedly different in the past than they are now and recognises the recent efforts of the Scottish Football Association and its members to put in place a child protection and well-being strategy.
“It makes clear that continuing culture change is imperative. That includes continuing to work closely with those affected to improve processes, thereby challenging distorted thinking about sexual conduct or violence and creating positive attitudes to mental health. We fully support those aims.”
The Minister said the government supports the work of police and prosecutors in investigating allegations to bring perpetrators to justice.
She added: “A number of individuals responsible have now been convicted and sentenced and there are also live criminal and civil proceedings still on-going. We encourage anyone who has experienced sexual abuse to come forward, if they feel comfortable doing so, to access the help available to them.
“The safety and well-being of all children and young people is paramount, as is ensuring that victims of abuse are supported through the justice system and beyond.
Her SNP colleague, Fulton MacGregor, told parliament: “As the minister said, some of the testimonies recorded in the report are harrowing to say the least. Those involved were children who were forced to experience the most horrific abuse while playing the game they loved.
“Most of us will never be able to imagine the permanent scarring that that will have caused to survivors.
“One recommendation of the report is that the clubs and organisations involved should offer an ‘unequivocal and unreserved’ apology to those who have been affected.
“How important is it that those apologies are made sincerely, and that they are made directly where that is possible, so that the individuals who were abused can find at least some closure for the trauma that they were subjected to?”
Mairi Gugeon said: “The review makes it clear that all organisations and clubs that failed young people in the past should apologise. That is the least that the individuals and families who were impacted can expect. I welcome the comments by the Scottish FA chief executive, Ian Maxwell, who said:
“I reiterate my sincerest apology on behalf of Scottish football to all who have experienced abuse in our national game. I know that some clubs have also now apologised in response to the report or have expressed regret about what happened.
She added: “I reiterate that it is of paramount importance for the Scottish Government to ensure that every child can play football—or any other sport—in a safe and secure environment.
“The abuse that those young people were subjected to was abhorrent. I can only imagine the impact that it has had on them and on their families. Any clubs where young people suffered such abuse should apologise, and they should do so unreservedly.”
“Football is now a very different environment. Strong progress has been made in recent years. However, the review demonstrates the terrible human cost of getting things wrong. I believe that the Scottish FA is determined to do all it can to address the issues in the report.
“We will work with the SFA and with other key organisations and partners to ensure that all necessary steps are taken. Given the complexity and sensitivity of the issues, and the need to carefully consider this long and detailed report, I cannot yet give a timescale for that work.
“We recognise that time has elapsed since the interim report was published and that urgency is now required. We are working on that.”
Top: A Celtic v Rangers match. Both clubs were caught up, along with many others, in this abuse scandal.