You may be wondering what my point is in bringing this issue to the surface and writing about it to raise awareness. Besides myself, there appears to be evidence of, and potential for, considerable substantial and unnecessary collateral damage caused by what may be either a careless oversight or ill thought out decision.

The Damage Caused by The FAs’ Escapee Safeguarding Genie?
In my personal experience, I was fortunate in that I didn’t receive a charge for unintentionally falling foul of the regulations, and was able to limit any personal damage. Despite filing my clean DBS check with the FA in April 2018 at the time of my intermediary renewal, I was subsequently made aware some 4 to 5 months later by a third party that the FA had not cleared me to represent minors.

I hadn’t received any communication of a delay from the FA and done everything as instructed, yet in me starting to discuss representation with a 17-year-old player and his family I was technically breaching the regulations and was undertaking ‘intermediary activity’ without clearance.

Fortunately for me I advised the player and his family to check the FA list of intermediaries on-line (which I advise all players, families and clubs to do when dealing with them), only to be informed (to my surprise) by the players father a few days later that it said I was not authorised to work with minors. Probably through my own trusting naivety I thought that the FA would be efficient in processing this clearance and informing me of any problems on such a crucial safeguarding issue, even after all the years of other apparent oversights that I have seen and heard of by the FA.

Now I could be all negative and dwell on how stupid and unprofessional it had potentially made me look in the eyes of the player and his family, not least that I had lost a potential client through little fault of my own (something most agents will confirm is the most difficult thing in getting new clients). However, when I consider other agents who have been fined and suspended as intermediaries, I am very lucky that by me trying to safeguard the interests of a young player and their family I effectively saved myself from getting a potential charge from the FA.

Despite many frustrations with the football establishment in the UK (not least the FA), this is a ‘simple’ problem that has got severely out of hand and been somewhat ignored; not just in damaging people’s livelihoods and reputations but also raising significant safeguarding matters and concerns …. along with a substantial waste of resources that could have been put to far better and proactive use.

 

Just Anomalies in a Well-Oiled Machine?

Sadly, the events that have directly affected myself do not appear to be anomalies;, there are many reported cases of oversights, misunderstandings and errors appear to have affected people’s livelihoods and the overall important issue of safeguarding.

Whether it be the case of an intermediary who already holds a valid and clean DBS check for another sport, or another who holds an ‘FA Safeguarding Certificate’; the landscape is still unclear as to whether they are authorised to represent minors as an intermediary (from my research in the eyes of the FA neither are authorised). After all, a DBS check does not differentiate between one sport and another governing bodies do (maybe because a proportion of the fees may come to them) but surely safeguarding is safeguarding? and the check transferable within sport (if not the same sport).

And with this matter of somewhat ‘minor chaos’ ensuing for a number of football participants, where does the responsibility lie? Well you would hope that once the participants undertook their core responsibilities the administration machine of the FA would take over, but sadly it appears this responsibility does not lie with the FA even in the case of an intermediary registering and paying, requesting and paying for a DBS check, and submitting a clear DBS via the FA IMS (Intermediary Management System).

In fact, amongst the FAs rules and regulations that in my opinion (and that of many others) are littered with caveats, misinterpretations and double-meanings, it is up to the intermediary to continually check their status ……. and if they don’t, they must apparently suffer the consequences. So, on that basis how many people would be happy to drive to work each day having to check that morning if their car insurance was valid and had not been revoked when the insurers system had regenerated the list of covered drivers, thus leaving them and other road users at risk?

 

An easy option for the FA and Questionable Characters

My main conclusion in all of this is; that whilst this problem remains, more and more people will get caught up in the confusion and at the very worst some of those that safeguarding is meant to protect the game against, will exploit the system.

It is all well and good for some agents and intermediaries to voice their dissatisfaction at being asked to undertake a DBS check to be registered with the FA, as was the case of a very senior ‘agent’ at an AFA (Association of Football Agents) meeting in 2018, but even more concerning in the knowledge that the same said ‘agent’ has and possibly was working as an advisor with the FA and FIFA. So in regards to this concern the response is simple: if you don’t undertake the check, then you shouldn’t expect to be registered or authorised.

Personally, I am of the opinion that we all may be slightly offended if we are asked to prove we aren’t a criminal, yet if we have nothing to hide then we should have nothing to fear. And if there is some element of a misdemeanour in our individual DBS record then it is up to the relevant authorities to adjudge what we are and are not permitted to do, or indeed present our case for consideration in regards to such things as safeguarding.

What I would say is that the benefits of an effective yet fair safeguarding check for ALL agents/intermediaries far outweigh the negatives of being asked to complete a process that may well offend some in having to fill out some paperwork and pay £60-70. After all, if it provides some protection for the football community from someone guilty of the likes of doping offences, serious financial crime, serious violent crime or indeed in extreme circumstances someone on the sex offenders register becoming a registered intermediary; then surely it is worth it.

At the end of the process it may serve the FA well (in the eyes of the media, public etc) in being seen to charge agents/intermediaries on the grounds of safeguarding. But it is their changes and oversights that have created these cases. In fact, for the FA it is a bit like ‘shooting fish in a barrel when it comes to charging intermediaries on such issues.

If an intermediary files a representation agreement on the FA’s IMS (Intermediary Management System) to represent a minor, and they don’t have the necessary ‘minors clearance’ they are basically admitting guilt (in my opinion, stupidity), hardly need for investigation. In fact, lets reflect back to the bank robber analogy of earlier, this would be akin to the same bank-robber robbing the bank but not leaving his fingerprints behind but his baseball bat complete with name and address details for if he lost it.

For those who are a threat to safeguarding, will they actually file the agreement and submit guilt to the authorities, or even apply to be registered in the first place ……. surely not.

 

<<<<<<<<<<<<<< Read the Preceeding PART ONE : ‘Have the FA ‘Allowed an Unsavoury Safeguarding Genie Out of The Bottle’?

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