Premier League boss reassures academy parents as sex abuse scandal grows
Premier League boss Richard Scudamore has written to the parents of players in top-flight academies to reassure them that their children are being protected as football's historic sex abuse scandal continues to spread.
The letter, which Press Association Sport has seen, was sent on Wednesday to the parents of the more than 3,000 players, aged eight to 18, in the Premier League's youth system.
Scudamore wrote: " As the parent of a young person registered at a Premier League club academy I am sure you, like us, are very concerned by the allegations of historical sexual abuse at professional football clubs. The victims and survivors have been extremely brave to come forward and have our sympathy and support.
"Given the volume of media coverage these disturbing stories understandably continue to generate, it is important that you, as parents of Premier League club academy players, are made aware of the current standards and provisions in place to keep your children safe."
Scudamore, who has five children, then outlines the Premier League's various safeguarding measures, which have been based on national standards set by the NSPCC Child Protection in Sport Unit for more than a decade.
Those measures include Disclosure and Barring Service checks, which used to be known as Criminal Records Bureau checks, and full-time safeguarding officers at each academy.
While noting that the league's measures have been rated as "outstanding" by Ofsted, Scudamore added: "T here is no complacency - the Premier League's own safeguarding team and independent monitors visit each club regularly throughout every season to assess the quality of their work and guide them on any developments that could be made.
"We see t he protection of your children as a fundamental responsibility and want you to have faith that everything is being done to maintain your trust in Premier League club academies."
Scudamore's intervention comes at a challenging and worrying time for anybody involved in youth football.
According to the latest figures from the National Police Chiefs' Council, 639 referrals have been received via the NSPCC helpline set up a fortnight ago for victims of abuse in football and police various forces around the UK. Also, 83 potential suspects have been identified and 98 clubs have been "impacted".
The NSPCC's football helpline is 0800 023 2642 and it is available 24 hours a day. It received 860 calls in its first week of operation.
The potential threat to football's future that is represented by this crisis has not escaped English Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey.
Speaking at the launch of a youth development initiative in London on Thursday, Harvey said: "The historic allegations that have come out are a concern to everybody and, yes, they may well affect the thought processes of parents thinking about putting their children into academies.
"But I think there is also a recognition that we are in a completely different era now. The safeguarding that is in place now is of a completely different level than was even considered in the 1970s and 80s. But, of course, we are concerned."