Barry Bennell: Lessons to be learned

Yet again we hear of a person placed in a position of trust who has abused that position and harmed the young people and children he was entrusted to care and support.

Barry Bennell, former youth football coach of Manchester City and Crewe, has been found guilty of a further 43 sex assaults on boys. This is the fourth trial that has convicted him of child sex offences and the number of victims is thought to be in the hundreds across several countries.

Systems failing young people

Organisations were allegedly made aware of the abuse, by staff members and families.  Clubs knew of the lifestyle he lived that included boys staying at his home and taking them on trips. The prosecutors at his trial stated that Bennell was “a child molester on an industrial scale”.

So how could this have been allowed to happen over so many years?  This case, as so many before it, exposes systems that have failed the young people they should have protected.

Lessons to be learned

Lessons must be learned from these cases in order to ensure that we safeguard children, young people and adults in all sport and activity organisations;

  • There needs to be a clear line of accountability within organisations that receive concerns or reports of abuse
  • Any reporting of concerns and abuse needs to be dealt with immediately
  • The voice of victims and their families must be heard. They need to know where to report and what will happen to the information that they pass on
  • Organisations should measure customer satisfaction and offer clear information about the service that people can expect
  • Safe recruitment practices must be followed. Undertaking DBS checks is only one part of this. Clear job descriptions, taking up references, training and a probationary period all need to be in place
  • Codes of conduct for employees need to be followed, with disciplinary measures in place
  • Whistleblowing procedures need to be introduced and encouraged

Safeguarding in sport and activity

Safeguarding is a responsibility for every sport and physical activity organisation. Getting this right will ensure a wider participation in sport or physical activity and ensure safe access for everyone.

We have put together a range of essential safeguarding resources for all organisations including sports and activity clubs, groups and bodies. Find out more about safeguarding in sport training and resources.