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FA to take lead in child abuse investigation where clubs are failing to conduct sufficient internal reviews

Clive Sheldon QC, who is the leading the FA-commissioned report, will step in with his team if clubs fail to provide a 'structured report' into instances of sexual abuse

Jack Pitt-Brooke
Thursday 29 March 2018 08:23 BST
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The FA investigation has been in the ‘deep investigation’ phase since May 2017
The FA investigation has been in the ‘deep investigation’ phase since May 2017 (Getty)

The Football Association’s report into historical allegations of sexual abuse will assume the power to probe clubs if it does not judge that those clubs have led adequate investigations into themselves. Clive Sheldon QC, who is leading the report commissioned by the FA, has asked clubs to provide him with a ‘structured report’ into instances of sexual abuse. If those reports are not adequate then Sheldon’s team of lawyers will conduct their own investigations.

The news will shine further spotlight on the clubs who are the focus of Sheldon’s report, which is now expected to be completed by late September, rather than next month, because of the scale of the work involved. Sheldon has identified 12 clubs to specifically focus on for his report, and has written to them to request information. Sheldon wants a ‘structured report’ within roughly the next month. But if he does not receive one then he will conduct his own investigation.

Chelsea and Manchester City have launched their own QC-led investigations into cases of sexual abuse at their clubs in the past, which Clive Sheldon and his team will work alongside and supervise. But not every club has followed suit, with Crewe Alexandra going back on an earlier promise to lead their own investigation. In these instances, where there is no sufficient internal process, Sheldon’s team will take over.

The investigation, set up by the FA in December 2016, has been in the ‘deep investigation’ phase since May 2017. They initially wrote to all 65,000 FA-affiliated football clubs, but they have narrowed their focus down to 12 case studies of specific interest, with whom they have been corresponding and meeting. The finished report will name clubs and individuals if it is deemed that they did not do enough following reports of abuse.

As well as speaking to clubs, Sheldon’s team having been studying boxes of documents in the FA warehouse. From 9,000 available boxes, the team have identified 963 boxes containing potentially relevant material – concerning child protection policies – from which 6,000 files have been uploaded on their digital platform. A total of 353 documents are thought to be highly relevant, with the team continuing to study the documents for at least another month.

The team have also been speaking to survivors of sexual abuse, and have spoken to 29 so far, and are planning to speak to another 10 to 15.

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