The Scottish FA and Scottish Professional Football League welcome the report published today by the Public Petitions Committee on improving Youth Football in Scotland and in particular its acknowledgement of the significant progress that has been made to protect children and young people involved in our game.

The landscape of the national sport has changed considerably in the 10 years since the petition was first raised and it is pleasing that work undertaken by the association in key areas to reflect that changing landscape has been recognised.

It is also reassuring that parliament endorses the improvements made including the creation of a wellbeing and protection department within the Scottish FA, overseen by an independent advisory board, publication of a child wellbeing and protection strategy, Getting It Right For Every Child in Scottish Football, the establishment of a wellbeing panel, and the ability for Club Academy Scotland players to play recreational football, including with school teams.

We have also committed to reviewing registration procedures for players in the 15-17 age bracket and work is ongoing in that regard.

More work can be done, however, and the game’s objectives in respect of wellbeing and protection are contained within the Scottish FA strategic plan 2019-2024, which are in line with the Scottish Government’s own framework.

We are grateful to the committee for their diligence and determination in protecting children and young people, and to the petitioners, Willie Smith and Scott Robertson, for the commitment and passion they have demonstrated throughout as advocates for grassroots football in Scotland.

Ian Maxwell, Scottish FA Chief Executive: “I said on my first invite to parliament to speak to the committee that children’s wellbeing is central to all that we do at the Scottish FA and I wish to reiterate that commitment now.

“The work undertaken by the wellbeing and protection team in providing professional support and guidance across all levels of the game has been extensive. We are also fortunate to have strategic oversight from a highly experienced Independent Wellbeing and Protection Advisory Board which is chaired by Jackie Brock, CEO of Children in Scotland and author of the Brock Report, who was commissioned previously by Scottish Government to review Scotland’s system for safeguarding of vulnerable children.

“It is also important to acknowledge failings. The well-documented lapses in PVG checking within the Scottish Youth FA was a sharp reminder of the need to have more robust policies and procedures in place for monitoring our affiliate bodies and the subsequent board directive issued has been successful in ensuring best practice across the recreational game in this regard.

“Scottish football is a tremendous source for good, with a social return on investment to the country estimated at over £1bn in a recent UEFA-commissioned study.

“Its journey of improvement is ongoing but I am pleased that the committee has validated the tangible progress made during the span of the petition and the level of priority that this area now has within Scottish football.

“We would welcome ongoing dialogue with the committee and reiterate our invitation to the chair, Johann Lamont, and the committee to discuss progress with our wellbeing and protection department and advisory board.”

Neil Doncaster, SPFL Chief Executive: “Today’s report recognises the enormous amount of vital work carried out by all 42 SPFL clubs in close partnership with our colleagues at the Scottish FA. 

“As a sport which harnesses and nurtures the passions of hundreds of thousands of young people throughout Scotland, football rightly places an overwhelming priority on ensuring they can play and learn in a safe and supportive environment.”