Latest Blog: Our Man in East Anglia
On becoming an Ambassador for the Offside Trust, I felt that my role was to raise awareness in East Anglia. One of the big issues I had regarding my abuse was the total lack of support I could access from day one. Myself and my wonderful volunteer Barry Howard developed a strategy to ensure that everyone who needed support in East Anglia knew where to find it and had people to talk to on the bad days - something which I never had until now.
We started out by sending a tweet to all the local clubs in the Norfolk area asking if they would like to support our work and allow us to get the word out via the medium of non- league football.
I was contacted by Mulbarton FC and met the chairman Duane James who agreed that they would support our work. Every Mulbarton team from under 7s through to mens, ladies and veterans would wear the Offside Trust logo on their shirts and the club put up a sponsored board.
This created quite a stir and many teams got in touch regarding working with us and many meetings ensued. We introduced the idea of ‘Awareness Days’ where we would visit clubs to allow people to talk to us face to face and discuss any issues they had.
Our first Awareness Day was at Great Yarmouth FC and was an excellent success. We spoke to many people about our work and most importantly one person came forward with abuse issues who we were able to direct to the right support and advice. We must thank Martyn Sinclair and Rob McCombe for their help on the day. A bucket collection also raised £100 for the Trust.
From this first Awareness Day, we were contacted by many clubs and leagues to ask how they could come on board and one such club was Shrublands FC, a club in Gorleston. I went to meet Andy Hannah the general manager of the club and he invited Shaun Platten to the meeting who was chairman of the Norfolk Suffolk Youth League. So successful was this meeting we were invited to their next meeting and I spoke for the first time publicly about my abuse and what we were doing to raise awareness and offer support to the league.
From this small start we really started to pick up pace and phone calls never seemed to stop regarding clubs and leagues wanting to come on board. Darrell Hibbert of East Point Sports has been wonderful in helping us get the correct merchandise which we sell on the Awareness Days to raise funds for our work. We sell mugs, beanie tats, corner flag sets, medical kits, water bottles and our popular Captain’s Respect armbands (we have sold over 100 of these).
So, from little acorns grew a wonderful and sometimes taxing and stressful array of meetings and awareness days meaning the Trust name was well and truly out there in Norfolk.
With a growing number of their clubs on board, I was invited to speak to the Norfolk Sunday League. This was a league I played in for many years so to stand in front of people I knew for over 30 years and detail what had happened to me was somewhat harrowing and cause quite a stir with some members of the committee who knew me personally and had no idea. They asked me to do the League Cup draw at the meeting and we are now working on ideas to get the word out to all Sunday League clubs.
Our next challenge was to get the largest youth league, the Combined Youth Football League (who have over 7,000 young players) on board. I met Darren Iles (the chairman) and within 5 days they announced we were their official partner and we are working with them now to look at their safeguarding policies and seeing if we can help them get them even tighter moving forward.
In December, we received an approach from Suffolk FA requesting a meeting in early January to look at working with them moving forward. I met James Morley and from this meeting plans were put in place to work together attending events and cup finals where we could display our Offside Trust stand.
The final event that we attended before the coronavirus put life on hold, was a conference held by Norfolk FA at the University of East Anglia which involved various safeguarding officers from across the region, including many local safeguarding officers from clubs in Norfolk and Suffolk.
I was asked to close the event with a 30-minute presentation and was given a standing ovation which was truly moving. We were invited to attend the Norfolk Senior Cup Final at Carrow Road (home of Norwich City) and to receive an award for our work this year.
A huge thanks to the following for their support:
Norfolk Suffolk Youth League
Norfolk Combined Youth League
Norwich Sunday League
Bury Town FC
Lowestoft Town FC
Great Yarmouth Town FC
Stalham Youth FC
Downham Town FC
Fakenham Town FC
Taverham Under 11
Taverham Youth FC
Thetford Rovers FC
The planning for when we come out of Lockdown and the local football season restarting will see further cooperation with:
Bradenham Wanderers FC
Thetford Town FC
Thetford Rovers FC
I cannot finish this run down of our work with mentioning the wonderful support we have had from East Point Sports, Premier Logos, 4sports Group plus Chris Goreham, Rob Butler of Radio Norfolk, Lauren Cope of the Eastern Daily Press and more importantly all this would not have been possible without my wonderful volunteer and friend Barry Howard who along with others have given me wonderful support. Also, my partner Carol Bennett who supports me at home on the sometimes not great days when I am tired and stressed on my return from the Awareness Days.
Follow Alan's great work on Twitter @arber_boy
13 March 2019: This afternoon former Foreign Secretary and ex-Mayor of London, Boris Johnson told LBC Radio that spending police budgets investigating historic child abuse is “spaffing money up the wall”.
Chris Unsworth, Director of the Offside Trust, the organisation set up by survivors of child sexual abuse in football in the wake of the football abuse scandal, said:
“The comments made by Boris Johnson today are ignorant, dangerous, disgraceful and unbelievably distasteful. Not only has he caused untold upset and offence among survivors and their families affected by child abuse, he has failed to understand that learning mistakes from the past is critical to keeping our children today safe.
“Boris Johnson clearly has no understanding whatsoever of the issues involved. On behalf of the thousands of people impacted by child abuse we demand an apology. Once that has been forthcoming, we invite Mr Johnson to meet with our representatives and educate himself about this issue that impacts not only the children of yesterday but also the children of the future.”
23 November 2018: The Offside Trust Podcast - Surviving Abuse - is now available featuring conversations between two of our survivors, Chris Unsworth and Gary Cliffe. The first episode deals with the issue of disclosure and how they each decided to come forward and tell their stories to family, friends, the police and the media; the second goes through the court case and trial; while the third talks about the work of the Offside Trust.
Episode 1 - Disclosing: http://traffic.libsyn.com/theoffsidetrust/Epsidoe_1_-_Disclosing.mp3
Episode 2 - The Court Process: http://traffic.libsyn.com/theoffsidetrust/Episode_2_-_The_Court_Process.mp3
Episode 3 - The Offside Trust: http://traffic.libsyn.com/theoffsidetrust/Episode_3_-_The_Offside_Trust.mp3
6 November 2018: In the light of continuing high-profile child sexual abuse convictions involving former coaches at football clubs, the Offside Trust has today called for the adoption of a Charter of Responsibility.
As the organisation set up ‘by survivors for survivors’ in December 2016, the Offside Trust, has been working for the last two years to provide support to survivors and to raise greater awareness of the need for safeguarding in sport to protect children from sexual abuse.
Director of the Offside Trust, Steve Walters said:
“These clubs have a moral, ethical and human responsibility to the children who were abused wearing their colours. Whatever the failings of the past, it’s the right thing to do now. This isn’t about naming and shaming individual clubs - they've already done that themselves through their silence and avoidance.
“Club owners should stop hiding behind lawyers and PR statements. It’s time they spoke from the heart rather than shrugging and saying they knew nothing at the time. Well they know something now. And it’s time to apologise.”
The details of the proposed Charter are listed below:
Sports clubs where child sexual abuse has taken place have a moral responsibility to both survivors and to the communities which they serve.
We call upon these clubs to adopt a ‘Charter of Responsibility’, which includes the following five commitments:
1. The club’s most senior officials should apologise publicly for the suffering of those abused at the club or by those employed by or representing the club and attempt to make direct contact with each survivor to privately apologise.
2. The club should work with partners to ensure that survivors have access to a range of support services to help their healing journey.
3. The club should be as transparent and cooperative as possible with police, administrative bodies, media and supporters, to ensure that the full truth about child sexual abuse can be revealed.
4. The club should be open about safeguarding failings of the past and set out clearly how things have been changed to try and avoid this happening again.
5. The club should outline how it can become a beacon of best practice by supporting safeguarding initiatives with grassroots clubs in their local communities.
The Offside Trust believes that these commitments represent the absolute minimum acceptable response for any sports club or organisation involved in child sexual abuse, whether recent or historic.
Note: In undertaking the above action, clubs would not be inferring any guilt or negligence. Section 2 of the Compensation Act 2006 states: “An apology, an offer of treatment or other redress, shall not of itself amount to an admission of negligence or breach of statutory duty.”
Survivors of child sexual abuse in football have carried their secrets for decades and many have spent the last two years going through the pain and distress of reliving their horrors in the hope that the truth will be heard. For the findings of the FA’s review to be further delayed is a huge disappointment.
We understand that the complexity and scale of Clive Sheldon QC’s investigation necessitates additional time and we are appreciative for the difficult work of the team and the police. However, it is precisely because of the scale of the issue that we believe an interim report should be published now with initial findings.
There are always likely to be ongoing trials or trials in the near future, and the pursuit of justice cannot be derailed. However, lessons must be learned today and the issues around reporting and the actions or inactions of football clubs needs to be addressed sooner rather than later, especially in cases where the same individuals remain in positions of authority and control.
We will continue to support and facilitate constructive engagement between the review team and survivors, but an interim release of findings would be a welcome step on the healing journey of survivors.
A football club in Northwich, Cheshire has changed the name of their home ground to show solidarity with the Offside Trust.
Barnton FC will play matches at the Offside Trust Stadium for the rest of the season.
“We’re driven to help an organisation that has already achieved amazing things,” said chairman Steve Lloyd. “We also wanted to do something different to some of the excellent work other clubs have done to raise awareness of the issue.”
The Villagers play in the North West Counties League’s second tier, and are the latest club to show support after Northwich Victoria and New Mills both agreed to display the Offside Trust logo on their shirts and dozens more have put up pitch-side advertising boards.
Actor Michael Sheen was one of the judges for the 2018 New Radicals list that included the Offside Trust. The 2018 Observer/Nesta awards celebrate the social enterprise innovators making a difference to real lives in the UK. The winners are chosen for bringing positive social change and according to Sheen, the awards "shine a spotlight on those delivering programmes, services and campaigns that put people and the planet first".
The Offside Trust message has been in evidence this month from grassroots cricket to global television audiences.
It was the Derbyshire and Cheshire Cricket League 'Offside Trust T20 Finals Day' involving Mottram, Whaley Bridge, Hayfield and eventual winners Hawk Green.
While for the national T20 finals day at Edgbaston, live on Sky TV, cricket legend David 'Bumble' Lloyd proudly wore his Offside Trust wristband and messaged his half a million followers on Twitter.
We are absolutely delighted to announce that @NevilleSouthall has kindly invited us to take over his Twitter feed to spread our message.
On Thursday 27 September 2018 from 5pm to 7pm, we will be engaging directly with his 143,000 followers. This is a powerful platform for us and we are grateful to our friend, the Wales and Everton goalkeeping legend.
The Offside Trust's Steve Walters has been advising the Channel 4 soap, Hollyoaks, on their most challenging ever storyline - tackling child sexual abuse in football. Steve has been working alongside Duncan Craig from Survivors Manchester to advise the writers and actors for several weeks. The plot has raised awareness of the issue across new, younger audiences and has been praised highly by TV critics.
BBC Sport presenter Dan Walker was a special guest at the first Offside Trust golf day held at the stunning Stockport Golf Club.
More that 80 players joined the Offside Trust directors and ambassadors in what was a fun-filled day that helped to raise a significant amount to support the ongoing work of the Trust. The golf was followed by an auction of golfing and football memorabilia.
Thank you to all our players, sponsors, donors and organisers for such a great day.
As survivors of child sexual abuse, we all experienced a stifling pressure to stay silent. We all experienced confusion about what was happening, about how someone could cause us such physical and emotional torment. We all experienced shame and guilt.
As survivors we know that, this experience makes it incredibly difficult to speak out. It takes tremendous courage, and is accompanied by an almost crippling fear that you will not be believed.
The justice system can be complex and frustrating. There will be many setbacks along the healing journey, but we stand shoulder to shoulder with all survivors at this difficult time.
To all those survivors who are suffering in silence, and all those who showed exceptional bravery in speaking out but have yet to receive justice, we send this message:
We believe you.
We stand by you.
We will fight with you to make sure future generations do not suffer as we did.
It may provide only little consolation, but we are certain that history will reflect your courage in ways we cannot yet understand.
With love and solidarity.
The Offside Trust
A huge thanks to Jamie and Rebekah Vardy for choosing the Offside Trust as the beneficiary of the new single by The S6 – Vardy’s on Fire.
Chanted by England fans for the last two years, the song has been released to coincide with the World Cup Finals in Russia.
All proceeds from the single will go to support the important work of the Offside Trust and help to raise awareness of child sexual abuse in sport.
We are absolutely thrilled and honoured to have been chosen by Adana Construction of Stockport to receive an amazing £8,000 donation following their hugely successful annual golf day at Stockport Golf Club. Chris Unsworth, director of the Offside Trust, received the cheque from Adana and said that: "This is phenomenal. It is one of our biggest ever donations and we are so grateful to Adana Construction. This money will help us to continue our valuable work of supporting survivors of child sexual abuse in sport and will fund a number of new initiatives that we have planned to raise awareness and make sport safer."
The Offside Trust is holding its first ever golf day to raise funds for its important work. It will be held on Thursday 30 August 2018 at Stockport Golf Club. Several Offside Trust ambassadors will be present as well as former footballers and celebrities. There will be a round of golf at one of the best courses in the North West, followed by a dinner and auction. Anyone interested in submitting a team or playing should contact us at: email@example.com
Several ambassadors of the Offside Trust have visited Portsmouth’s training ground ahead of their big game against Plymouth to meet players. A number of survivors, including a few that have not stepped forward before, were special guests at the game where both teams wore Offside Trust shirts during the pre-match warmup and details of the Trust’s work were covered in the matchday programme.
The Offside Trust is grateful to the organisers and supporters of the Northwest Football Awards for helping to promote our work at their prestigious awards ceremony in Manchester. Legends including Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Vincent Kompany and Brian Kidd celebrated the success of Northwest football and helped to raise awareness of the Offside Trust.
A host of celebrities and football legends, including David Morrissey, Rowetta, Trevor Sinclair, Ian Harte, Graham Stuart, Colin Hendry, Paul Dickov, David Dunn, Dele Adebola, Nicky Weaver, Danny Webber and Ashley Ward plus many other household names took part in the Offside Trust's first big fundraiser.