For me to write a post about football (or Soccer if you prefer) - even on a Friday - is a pretty odd occurrence. I played Rugby instead and I'm not even an armchair fan of the game - would rather watch Motor Racing. I belong to that contingent who are pleased that England aren't in the European championships (and no I don't mean "Scots" by that). With EU employment law used to remove the requirement to have home grown players, and the Top clubs awash with TV money (Rupert Murdoch famously called sport "a battering ram" to get his satellite TV into homes) so they can buy the best players from anywhere the poor state of the national side can't really come as a surprise.
The football association - oddly - has the job of looking after the super rich clubs, the national team and the grass roots: things like children's football. And the last is something I do something about. A year or so ago one of the Fathers at my daughters school decided it was high time we had a village team* and set about getting a mixed under 8s team together. Some of the team members would have qualified for under 7s. Sadly, after a year the team looks like it might not have a future because only allow 8 year olds will be allowed to play in the under 9s group. The village it looks as if the Village won't be able to muster enough 8 year olds,nor enough 7 year olds to have a team in either group. Today the BBC has a news story "Football leagues ban for Under 8s" So I wonder if the rule is that under 8s can't play in competitive league - so this is only a quirk of the under 9s bracket.
Under 8s football will still have goals, the teams will keep track of who scores the most goals. So each game will be every bit as competitive (we won't get the spectacle of the uber-PC sports day where children can not race each other - even though they race in the playground every other day of the school year). Organization of fixtures means that the teams will all play each other; yet tabulating the results is frowned upon. "The FA said there was too much emphasis on winning leagues, when the need was to improve youngsters' skills." One has to ask how one goes about winning a league without skills. Where would are national team be if they didn't worry about results as whole ? Sitting at home watching the European championship on TV probably.
*Update. Both our coaches had to go through CRB checks - see this story - one more barrier to getting anything off the ground.
Hi James. Thanks for raising the issue of child protection. Certainly a big issue at the moment, especially with the current high profile cases of anti-social behaviour. We need people to be engaging with young people, not feeling deterred from doing so, and it was sad to read the experiences of the chap in the BBC article.
However, I think your statement about CRB checks is really unhelpful. I have been involved with youth projects for 15 years. CRB checks are a really helpful tool to make it harder for people with harmful intentions to gain access to vulnerable children and adults. Sometimes it doesn't work smoothly, but generally it seems to and I think it is significantly better than not having it in place. Compared to the risks involved it certainly isn't a big hurdle.
Other precautions criticised in the article are again entirely sensible - would you let a complete stranger have unobserved access to your children? Also, and this is almost always not understood, it helps to protect the adult. Sometimes children, particularly vulnerable ones, will make false accusations of abuse against an adult working with them. I always make sure that I can defend myself against this by having taken suitable precautions such as making sure others can see me at all times so I have witnesses I can call on to prove any accusations are false. Mud sticks, and if you are sensible you don't get it on you in the first place. I suspect the problem here was poor training for the guy involved rather than the procedures themselves.
I'd be interested to hear your position on this. I am often wrong and would appreciate it if you have other information that would help me make projects I am involved in more effective.
I do appreciate your blog, so thanks for doing it.
Chris, the anecdotal evidence I have is that CRB checks deter people from volunteering. That article says that the guy concerned wasn't trusted despite a CRB check. (And I take your point that the measures may have been to protect him).
I let my children visit the homes of other children , and they come to our home. Since only 3 of the Dads of my daughter's class ever come drop their kids off I know the mums but not the Dads. So "strangers" have access to my kids.
Yet if a parent wants to organize a club of any kind they are assumed to have criminal intent.
We get asked to volunteer for various schools things at Microsoft - mentoring, interview skills that kind of thing - and I thought it would be a good thing to do to put something back. Then I thought about what I'd probably have to go through and I decided I be better spending the time at home with my own kids. **I** am deterred from engaging. I agree that we should be doing so, but it's so much easier not to.
Trying to de-risk everything ends up stopping kids doing the things that children really should do. They can't go and play football on their own, because parents either have a disproportionate fear of what could happen , or a better founded fear of how they will be judged. If parents organize something they have to get over the "potential child molester" thing, and then the FA comes along ...