The Paul Stewart column: Fleetwood Town setting high standards for safety

Paul Stewart
Paul Stewart

At the back end of last season I was contacted by a coach from Fleetwood Town Juniors, who  asked If I would address their coaches and parents, having seen that I was sharing my thoughts on safeguarding on social media.

David White and I went along and spoke on two separate occasions.
If I’m honest, I would have liked to have seen more parents there, but in terms of welfare officers and coaches it was a decent turnout.
David and I spoke candidly about what happened to us as young footballers in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, but more importantly about where we would like to see changes in the future.
Six months on, I travelled to Fleetwood Town’s Poolfoot Farm training complex this week and spoke to two welfare officers from the junior set-up, Samantha Harrison and Jackie Huartson, to see if any significant changes had been implemented since we last visited.
I had noticed on social media that they had introduced a card system.
The card is given to each player and contains contact details for both Jackie and Sam, and a message which reads, “If you have any issues or need to talk, feel you are being treated unfairly, please contact one of the four welfare officers .....”
This prompted me to get in touch and ask if I could meet up for chat as I wanted to write about it this week in my column.
I have to say it was really encouraging to listen to the two ladies talk with pride about what they had introduced as standard practice, the new measures that are now in place.
By the way, they were not acting on the instructions of the FA – these implementations go above and beyond what is mandatory.
Along with the introduction of the cards for the children, posters have been placed in the changing rooms and bathrooms, with the same messages.
Coaches and club officials must wear lanyards which included their photograph and contact information, so they are easy recognisable.
These are just some of the steps they have taken as they look to set an example in excellence in safeguarding.
And for this, I think Fleetwood Town Juniors should be commended for their efforts in ensuring the safety and well-being of the children.
Is your club looking to take a leaf out of Fleetwood Town Juniors’ book?
If you are a parent, are you happy with your club’s safeguarding procedures or are you one of the many who drop your children off and never ask, ‘Who am I leaving my child with?’
A colleague of mine tells a very sobering story of his time as a junior rugby coach.
A father had been bringing his two sons to training every week for over a year, dropping them off and leaving without a word.
One week, as the father was about to drive off, my colleague said to him: “Before you go, can I have your car keys and wallet?”
The man looked at him bemused and my colleague repeated the question.
After a minute, the father asked why he wanted his keys and wallet?
My colleague replied: “You have left your two sons with me every week for the last year and never asked who I am or what my role is. I ask you for your car keys and wallet and you think I’m mad.
“Well, what do you value most in life, your car and the contents of your wallet or your two sons, who you leave in my care every week without asking a single question?”
I will leave you with that thought.

Thanks to everyone who entered last week’s competition to win a copy of my autobiography DAMAGED My Story.
I asked you to send in your all-time best Premier League XI, with the prize going to the reader whose chosen team was closest to my own.
My top Premier League XI would be: Peter Schmeichel, Gary Neville, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Cristiano Ronaldo, Roy Keane, Steven Gerrard, Ryan Giggs, Eric Cantona and Alan Shearer.
Nobody submitted a team exactly the same as that but a few of you named nine of my 11. Of those, the winner drawn was Bob Wolstencroft of Leyburn Avenue, Blackpool. Congratulations, Bob.