The FA has apologised to abuse survivors following the publication of the report ©Getty Images

The Football Association (FA) has apologised to survivors of sexual abuse after an independent report into historical abuse in the sport found the organisation "did not do enough to keep children safe."

The FA commissioned the independent review in 2016 after survivors came forward, with the report examining the years between 1970 and 2005.

A 710-page report, produced by Clive Sheldon, found that the FA was not aware that abuse had occurred in football before the summer of 1995.

The FA were found to have "acted far too slowly to introduce appropriate and sufficient child protection measures", following the summer of 1995.

"These are significant institutional failings for which there is no excuse," the report stated.

"During this period (October 1995 to May 2000, when the FA launched its comprehensive child protection programme), the FA did not do enough to keep children safe."

The Sheldon report said it was "not possible to know how many children suffered sexual abuse in football from 1970 to 2005," with most incidents of abuse not reported.

Sheldon concluded that it was clear "that a considerable amount of sexual abuse of children took place during this period", with statistics based on Operation Hydrant criteria finding that there were 240 suspects within football, with 692 survivors.

Sixty-two survivors of abuse and 157 further individuals gave evidence to the investigation.

Sheldon added: "I do not wish to give the impression, however, that abuse in football (whether in the pre-professional or grassroots game) was commonplace.

"It was not."

The report found the FA "did not act appropriately" following Barry Bennell's release from prison in 2003, with their failure to take action putting children at potential risk.

Bennell, a former Crewe Alexandra and Manchester City coach is serving a 34-year sentence after being convicted of child sexual abuse five times.

The FA should have also reviewed the case of Bob Higgins, who was jailed for 24 years in 2019 for sexually touching trainees in the 1970s and 1980s, after a change in disciplinary rules.

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham issued a statement apologising to the survivors of abuse.

"I am proud to lead the FA and know the positive impact that football can have throughout the country," Bullingham said.

"Getting people active, learning the power of teamwork, and having fun together.

"As a youth team coach, I see that impact every week.

"However, today is a dark day for the beautiful game.

"One in which we must acknowledge the mistakes of the past and ensure that we do everything possible to prevent them being repeated.

"Clive Sheldon QC published his independent report into allegations of non-recent child sexual abuse in football.

"This report is a very important piece of work and was commissioned by the FA after survivors bravely came forward in November 2016.

"I’ve had the privilege of meeting some survivors, whose courage is inspirational and whose stories are incredibly moving.

"They will never forget what has happened to them, and this report will now ensure the game will never forget either."

Bullingham praised the bravery of survivors throughout the process and said their voices have been powerful.

He added that the report served as a reminder of the importance for everyone to be aware of current risks.

Bullingham said the report offered "no excuse" for inaction at the time.

"There are consistent features in this review," he said.

"Of bystanders who didn’t do anything.

"Of children that weren’t believed.

"Of the damage that has been caused.

"There's a famous quote that says: ‘For evil to flourish simply requires that good people do nothing’.

"There are too many examples of that throughout this report.

"There is no excuse.

"While we recognise how courageous it was for you to come forward, it’s important to recognise that good has come from this bravery.

"You have been trailblazers in shining a spotlight on the horrifying abuse that you suffered while playing the game you loved.

"Without your testimonies, we would not have this understanding, and I would personally like to thank you all for your involvement, contributions and your honesty.

"Most importantly, detailing these crimes and the manipulative behaviour behind them, will help to ensure that abuse is less likely to happen in the future."

The FA has said it will implement 13 safeguarding recommendations ©Getty Images
The FA has said it will implement 13 safeguarding recommendations ©Getty Images

The FA has said it will implement the 13 safeguarding recommendations made in the Sheldon report.

Recommendations included the FA making arrangements to encourage all parents and carers to receive safeguarding training, as well as all players and young people.

The FA Board and Senior Management Team are recommended to receive safeguarding training every three years, while the organisation should require the Board of Directors of professional clubs to receive safeguarding training during the same timeframe.

The FA is recommended to require all those engaging in a regulated activity, including managers and coaches of junior teams and open-age teams to receive safeguarding training as part of their clubs’ affiliation to their County FA.

Further recommendations include one member of the FA’s Board being assigned the role of Children’s Safeguarding Champion, a five-year strategy with specific intervention to support the voices of children, spotchecks for grassroots clubs, and regular reporting from safeguarding officers to clubs Boards.

The FA have been encouraged to launch a social media and online campaign offering advice on safeguarding and minimising risk, as well as devoting one day of the year to being a National Day of Safeguarding in Football.

The organisation is also recommended to publish a safeguarding report on an annual basis, which should include a statement from the FA’s chairman.