Abuse survivor Ian Ackley: Sheldon Review ‘as dilute as Vimto for two-year-olds’

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An abuse survivor says the Sheldon Review into historical sexual abuse within football is as “dilute as Vimto for two-year-olds”.

The review was published on Wednesday and looked at abuse between 1970 and 2005, what the Football Association knew and did about it, and recommendations for improving safeguarding in the future.

Ian Ackley, who was raped hundreds of times by serial abuser Barry Bennell between 1979 and 1983, hoped the review would go further and recommend independent, external oversight of the Football Association’s child protection measures.

“If I was to describe it loosely, it’s probably as dilute as Vimto for a two-year-old. He (Sheldon) could have been far more punchy and far braver. I get why he has taken the line he has, and it’s generally positive and it gives us that foundation to springboard forward from.

“I guess the big question now is, have the FA the will to do it and how do they do that, so eyes on the FA.”

He added: “This is not something we are unfamiliar with in society where we want to put checks and challenges in place. Education, for whatever you think of it, we have Ofsted, we have inspectorates that do this job that have autonomy, that are not beholden to those who have so-called power in whatever industry it is.”

Asked whether he thought the FA would now to look to put in place external oversight of its own accord, he said: “I would like to see the FA endorse far more rigorous and onerous conditions upon themselves to give the general public the faith back in the organisation to be able to self-govern.

“There’s no reason why they can’t fund an independent body, or commercial sponsors couldn’t put in a budget in for an independent governance board, for the FA, to oversee what happens with the social, moral and professional responsibility and accountability for the game at all levels (that the FA has).”

He now works as a support advocate for other survivors of football abuse, and has reported a “spike” in referrals since Cheshire Police circulated a letter about his service to other Bennell survivors in advance of a BBC documentary series being aired from Monday.

On the impact of the review’s release, he said: “It’s not easy, it’s been a long time coming.

“It’s a moment in time that people have been waiting for and however you view it – good, bad or indifferent or a mixture of all those things – we’re at the point where we can say this is another thing we can put behind us, that’s not in front of us, and as such hopefully we can draw some sort of line in the sand and move forward with our lives in a positive and constructive way.

“I think every survivor is hoping that is what they can get back to – some sense of enjoying a quality of life.”

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