Former Blackpool, Tottenham and England footballer Paul Stewart launches course to help protect youngsters from abuse - backed by Gary Lineker, Kevin Sinfield and other stars

Former Blackpool, Spurs, Liverpool and England footballer Paul Stewart has helped develop a new course to protect young sports stars from abuse.

By Tim Gavell
Tuesday, 4th January 2022, 6:55 am

Paul, who became a top level striker despite suffering repeated abuse as a young boy from a youth coach, has worked with High Speed Training and the NSPCC on the project.

It comes as a study shows that a third (32 per cent) of parents are unsure whether their child’s sports coaches have undertaken safeguarding training and that one in ten parents stated that they’re unsure of identifying the signs of abuse.

The course, which is backed by sport icons such as Gary Lineker, rugby league giant Kevin Sinfield, former England and British Lions great Brian Moore, Olympic medalist Marilyn Okoro and Ryder Cup golfer Ian Poulter, provides sports coaches, parents and volunteers with the tools to be able to identify and prevent abusive behaviours in grassroots sports, as well as understanding and implementing the recommended safeguarding procedures around the above points.

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Paul Stewart who has helped produce a course to help protect young sports people from abuse

Paul was inspired to speak out about the abuse he suffered, after new began to break about incidences of abuse that young footballers endured began to surface. In 2016, he was sitting at his office desk one morning when he read a Daily Mirror story about one of the abuse cases.

That changed his world and he came forward to highlight the situation and has written about his experiences in his book, entitled Damaged.

Paul said it was a comprehensive safeguarding course with exercises and assessment and on completion a certificate is presented.

He said: “I am delighted that, by working with safeguarding and training experts, High Speed Training, I have been able to produce something which can make such a positive impact on an issue that is personal to my life.

Paul, far left, scoring for Spurs in the FA Cup in 1991 against his old team Blackpool

“By developing this course, I am determined to turn what was such an upsetting childhood experience into something positive for children in sport.”

Gary Lineker said: “It’s thanks to the work that grassroots sports clubs do that children have the opportunity to play sport.

“This course is designed so that coaches can get on with what they do best, safe in the knowledge that their safeguarding procedures are robust and up to date.

“Unfortunately, history tells us that things can go wrong, so club leaders need to ensure that they put measures in place to prevent any abuse taking place.”

Paul has written a book of his experiences

Richard Anderson at High Speed Training said: “Our research shows that more needs to be done to ensure that parents and coaches are both able to identify signs of abuse and mistreatment and report it appropriately, and prevent any form of abuse happening at their sports club.

“With a third of parents unsure whether their child’s sports coaches have undertaken safeguarding training, we hope that our research will encourage people to initiate these important conversations and encourage enrollment on the course to protect our young aspiring athletes.”

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