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Educating about child abuse in sport for 'Awareness Day' at Swaffham Town Football Club

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An organisation committed to tackling child abuse in sport will be visiting a local football club tomorrow.

The Offside Trust is founded and run by survivors of child sexual abuse in sport, and former Norwich City player Alan Arber will be visiting Swaffham Town Football Club as part of an awareness day.

The Shoemakers Lane club are inviting people to learn about the work the Offside Trust does in safeguarding children from abuse.

Alan Arber is pictured in the centre at a previous Offside Trust Awareness Day. Picture: SUBMITTED
Alan Arber is pictured in the centre at a previous Offside Trust Awareness Day. Picture: SUBMITTED

Merchandise will be on sale and donations will be collected in a charity bucket. There will also be leaflets available for people to take.

The Offside Trust was formed after British football was hit by a series of revelations regarding child sexual abuse in 2016.

Several former professional players waived their right to anonymity to speak out about their past abuse.

Swaffham Town Football Club will welcome the Offside Trust for an awareness day on Saturday
Swaffham Town Football Club will welcome the Offside Trust for an awareness day on Saturday

A number of those involved, decided to set up the Offside Trust, which is directed by former professional footballer Steve Walters.

The organisation has already supported and spoken confidentially to over 100 survivors of abuse, many of whom never disclosed their abuse to anyone previously.

A spokesman for the Offside Trust said: "There has been great steps taken across football to create a safer environment for children and the safeguarding work at most professional clubs is exemplary. At grassroots level, the scarce resources and reliance on volunteers mean that there needs to be particular focus and constant vigilance to ensure clubs are safe.

"We don't have any breakdown on regional safeguarding or reported cases, but we are delighted to say that Norfolk is by far and away the best example of grassroots support we have, with so many teams taking an active interest in our work. This is largely due to the great work and connections of Alan."

Writing for the Offside Trust website, Mr Arber has spoken of his own personal experiences and why he became involved with the charity.

He said: “One of the big issues I had regarding my abuse was the total lack of support I could access from day one.

“Myself and my wonderful volunteer Barry Howard developed a strategy to ensure that everyone who needed support in East Anglia knew where to find it and had people to talk to on the bad days - something which I never had until now.”

Mr Arber and Mr Howard started out by sending a tweet to all the local clubs in the Norfolk area asking if they would like to support the Offside Trust’s work.

Many teams subsequently got in touch and this led to the creation of the ‘Awareness Days’.

Mr Arber continued: “Our first Awareness Day was at Great Yarmouth FC and was an excellent success.

“We spoke to many people about our work and most importantly one person came forward with abuse issues who we were able to direct to the right support and advice.

“So, from little acorns grew a wonderful and sometimes taxing and stressful array of meetings and awareness days meaning the Trust name was well and truly out there in Norfolk.”

Among the merchandise on offer at Swaffham tomorrow will be mugs, beanie tats, corner flag sets, medical kits, water bottles and popular Captain’s Respect armbands.

Mr Arber added that Swaffham and Fakenham are both proud supporters of the Offside Trust.

On Thursday, former Crewe Alexandra football coach and Manchester City scout Barry Bennell was jailed for four more years for child sex offences in the 1970s and 80s.

Outside the court, one of Bennell's victims, Gary Cliffe, read out a statement on behalf of the Offside Trust saying there were dozens of other outstanding cases which had not been brought to court, which he described as a "bitter blow to so many men and their families".

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