At Stevenage Starlets FC our number one priority is to ensure the wellbeing of all the girls who are part of our club. We fully support initiatives aimed at keeping football safe and enjoyable and work hard to deliver the best possible environment in which to to play.
This responsibility is not ours alone however. All involved in football should have an understanding of potential safeguarding risks and know exactly what to do if they want to raise a concern about a child. That's why it's vital that everyone is aware of the structures and processes that are in place to protect children and how they can can play their part.
How safeguarding works in English football
Football takes the safeguarding of children and young people extremely seriously. The ongoing work to make the game as safe and enjoyable as possible is led by The Football Association (The FA), the game’s governing body in England. This work is delivered through County FAs in conjunction with leagues and clubs.
A clear safeguarding strategy has been put in place by English football to protect people involved in the national game. It is complete with policies, procedures and regulations. Every club in the country must adhere to the policies which apply to them. If not, they face sanctions, including suspension from playing.
Policies include the mandatory appointment of Club Welfare Officers for every league or club with youth teams. There is also a requirement for specified club committee officers to complete the free online ‘Safeguarding for Committee Members’ course.
Welfare Officers must have an FA accepted Criminal Record Check, which has to be renewed every three years. They must also undertake regular FA-approved safeguarding training. With the club committee’s support, Welfare Officers ensure the appropriate checks and training are completed for anyone at the club working with those under the age of 18.
The film below outlines how safeguarding concerns should be reported to the football authorities - and how they are investigated. They also show how football works together and with the statutory agencies to investigate and risk-manage any concerns raised.
For further information about safeguarding you can visit the website of Hertfordshire FA who administer the game in our county. In addition, The FA has produced a document called ‘Keeping Football Safe And Enjoyable’, which outlines in detail the work being done across football nationally, which you can download here.
At Stevenage Starlets FC our current Club Welfare Officer is Elizabeth Manning. Should you have any issues, concerns or questions in relation to safeguarding please feel free to speak to her or contact her by email via firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Importance of Respect
Keeping the game safe and enjoyable isn't just about protecting children from physical abuse. It's vital to create positive environment where children are free to have fun and develop their love of the game. Poor parental behaviour is one of the main reasons why young players drop out of the game, so it's an important issue to get right.
We know that children learn best when they are free to make their own mistakes. Too often those watching want to control what's happening on the pitch, constantly shouting at the players. While they may think they are helping them, this can actually harm a child's football development as it means they won't learn to make their own decisions.
Likewise being overly critical of a how a child is playing will likely make them worried or nervous and ultimately have a detrimental impact on their performance. Playing with a fear of ever making a mistake creates footballers who only choose the easy option, or who are unwilling to try new things, which again has a negative affect on their development.
We fully support The FA's 'Respect' campaign to improve behaviour and ensure that matches are memorable for the right reasons. We ask all of parents to sign a code of conduct outlining what is expected of them when their child joins our club. Any behaviour which falls short of this is taken seriously and may lead to them being asked to leave.
This doesn't mean you cannot support your child or their team, it's just about doing it in the right way. The video below gives plenty of examples of what not to do. If in doubt we have a simple phrase to guide you. "The children are here to learn and have fun. They have coaches to give them instructions. All you need to give them is encouragement".
Working together we can create a fair, safe and enjoyable environment in which to play. Thank you for helping us to make it a beautiful game.