The Irish Football Association today launched a Safeguarding Children and Young People Policy and Procedures document for all clubs affiliated to the association in Northern Ireland.
The updated version of the document was officially unveiled by Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, on her penultimate day in office. She has been commissioner since 2015.
Safeguarding responsibilities, safe recruitment, children’s rights, safeguarding training and education, indicators and forms of abuse, codes of conduct and health and safety guidance are among the many topics covered in the extensive policy.
The Irish FA said protection of children and young people in football has been and remains a priority for the organisation.
It also noted that in recognising its legal and moral responsibility to safeguard their welfare, and to protect them from inappropriate behaviour and abuse, the association is determined to ensure kids and youths participating in football are afforded the highest possible standard of care.
In order to meet the needs of all our young footballers we must understand that safeguarding is a responsibility shared by everyone providing opportunities for children and young people to participate in football affiliated to the Irish FA
The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People said: “As someone who has worked with children and young people in a paid and a voluntary capacity I recognise the importance of clear guidance, standards and procedures.
“Added to training and support, these procedures should make sure that everyone working in Irish FA-affiliated football clubs is confident in identifying and acting on concerns when a child may be at risk.
“This Safeguarding Policy and Procedures represents the practical implementation of the rights of children and young people to be protected from harm and to have their voices taken seriously.”
The commissioner also commended the Irish FA on producing “such a comprehensive document”.
Kevin Doyle, Safeguarding Manager at the association, said: “In order to meet the needs of all our young footballers we must understand that safeguarding is a responsibility shared by everyone providing opportunities for children and young people to participate in football affiliated to the Irish FA.
“It is anticipated that this updated policy will highlight the layers of responsibility from the Irish FA through to our affiliated bodies, leagues and clubs, and create a fun, safe and inclusive environment.
“We aim to ensure robust measures are in place to prevent harm within football and that our guidance, standards and expectations are clearly communicated to all those who volunteer their time to provide those opportunities, whether this is in a supportive, coaching or administrative capacity.”
He said education and training are vital to ensure volunteers are knowledgeable about how they can respond appropriately if any concerns arise.
The Safeguarding Manager further pointed out: “It is vital that we strengthen our communication with our young footballers to ensure that, if they have any concerns, they know how to raise them appropriately and are confident that they will be listened to, their views considered and appropriate action taken.
“Equally we must educate parents/guardians not only on how they can meet the needs of their child throughout their footballing journey but also that they know how they can address any issues they may have.”
He noted the Irish FA is continuing to work in partnership with experts from other lead safeguarding organisations, counterparts across the UK as well as UEFA and FIFA to ensure its policy and procedures are in accordance with relevant legislation and good practice guidelines.
“We hope that this policy document will strengthen our safeguarding framework and continue to develop a positive culture for children and young people to enjoy their experience in football,” he added.
Main image: Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, launched the Irish FA's updated Safeguarding Policy document along with James Thompson, Director of Foundation Development with the Irish FA Foundation, and Kevin Doyle, the association's Safeguarding Manager.