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Sheldon Report | Survivor Support Advocate Service


Today, Clive Sheldon QC published the findings of his independent review of non-recent child sexual abuse in football.   

The PFA offers our deepest sympathy to all victims for the incredibly traumatising experiences they have been through and once again commend them for having the courage to participate in the enquiry. Their brave testimonies will improve football’s approach to safeguarding and help ensure that the next generation of young players will be better protected.

Sadly, we are aware that historically there have been instances where people involved in football have been severely mistreated and subsequently left without acknowledgement or support.

In 2019, the PFA Charity committed to creating dedicated support predominantly for survivors of non-recent child sexual abuse in football, to ensure they could access the help they need.

The PFA Charity's Survivor Support Advocate (SSA) provides free and confidential support to anyone who has experienced abuse while participating in football. The service is co-funded by The Football Association (The FA) to ensure survivors who are not current or former PFA members can also access this support.

The SSA role is filled by Ian Ackley, a survivor with lived experience of historic abuse in football. Ian has over 20-years' experience working with vulnerable and hard to reach groups and is the first survivor to lead such a service within the game.

The service provides a caring, trauma-informed approach to individual survivors' needs. It aims to create a safe space where difficult and sensitive conversations can occur in a structured and supportive environment.

Ian said, "The advocacy service is unique within football. Due to my personal and professional experience, I am well placed to advise others and offer emotional, legal and practical support. The most common feedback I get from survivors is how much they value speaking to someone who understands, someone who has been through the processes first hand. I can reassure any survivor who accesses the service that you will receive support from someone who 'gets it' and won’t have to worry about having to explain yourself further."

The service includes a wide range of support but is primarily focused on survivors’ wellbeing. Ian will coordinate the various processes involved post-disclosure, facilitate access to counselling and use his detailed knowledge of the criminal justice and civil systems to help survivors start a claim. This includes assisting survivors in understanding what to expect during a claim and providing contacts for legal representation, including firms with specialist knowledge of child sexual abuse.

If required, Ian can also give advice about debt, housing and benefits, assist with grant applications, provide support during meetings and help survivors access The FA or PFA Charity Benevolent funds for adult survivors.

Who can access the support?

The SSA service is available to players, officials or anyone else who experienced abuse while working at any level of football. The service covers both non-recent and current abuse. 

To access the SSA service, you must have reported your abuse to an official organisation, such as the police, NSPCC, The FA or the PFA. If you have not yet disclosed your experiences, Ian can support you through the reporting process.

We understand that coming forward is a significant step and hope that accessing this service can reduce the ongoing impact of survivors’ trauma.

We urge all survivors who feel they would benefit from SSA support to get in touch:

Other important contact details:

NSPCC Football Helpline - 0800 023 2642

Available Monday to Friday 8 am to 10 pm, Sat and Sun 9 am to 6 pm. Alternatively please contact the general 24-hour helpline on 0808 800 5000.

The FA Safeguarding Team -

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