English football unites this weekend to promote Play Safe – the English Football Association’s countrywide/nationwide campaign to focus attention of the vital importance of safeguarding across our national game.

The FA’s Play Safe campaign is endorsed by the NSPCC and will be supported this weekend across every level of English football, including the Premier League, EFL, Barclays Women’s Super League, Barclays Women’s Championship, National League and across the grassroots game – and that includes every Bolton County side that will be out representing us this weekend…

This year’s Play Safe campaign focuses on the safeguarding role that everyone can play – coaches, players, parents/carers, spectators or volunteers – to keep children and young people safe, no matter what the football setting.

This season clubs and leagues at every level of the game are being asked to make a ‘Play Safe Pledge‘ and to then let the FA know. This includes grassroots youth team captains wearing Play Safe armbands and youth team coaches wearing Play Safe pin badges up and down the country in support of this campaign…

In addition – as part of this year’s Play Safe campaign – the FA are also promoting their free online Safeguarding Awareness Course for Parents & Carers to raise awareness around safeguarding and how to report any concerns. The aim is for 100,000 people from across the game to have taken the course – which only takes 30 minutes to complete – by the end of 2024. The free course provides important information that guides parents and carers through questions they should ask to ensure the club or venue where children play football has the correct safeguarding policies, people and practices in place.

FA Chief Executive, Mark Bullingham, said: “We want everyone involved in football – particularly children and young people – to have a safe, positive and enjoyable experience. English football will come together this weekend with leagues and clubs across the country participating in our Play Safe Weekend, taking our Play Safe Pledge to help build awareness and understanding about the importance of safeguarding. We encourage everyone in the game to take part.”

The FA’s Survivor Support and Safeguarding Advisory Group [FASSSAG] has added its support to the campaign: “Creating safe environments in every football setting is a collective responsibility. It’s really important that every single person in football – no matter if they’re actively involved or on the side-lines – understands that they have an ongoing role to play. Knowing how to act on any concerns is vital and Play Safe is a key way to ensure everyone is vigilant and knows what to do if they become aware of any inappropriate behaviour.”

NSPCC Chief Executive, Peter Wanless, says: “Everyone has a role to play in preventing abuse and we’re pleased that the FA is again putting a spotlight on safeguarding awareness in football through the Play Safe weekend, which runs ahead of Keeping Your Child Safe in Sport Week 2-6 October. It’s great to see Play Safe is supported by every level of the game.”

The FA’s Head of Safeguarding, Sue Ravenlaw, said: “The Play Safe campaign has been instrumental in helping us raise awareness for safeguarding across English football. It was very well supported last year, with over one million people reached through some truly innovative activations by many leagues and clubs. Together, with all the football family and the NSPCC, we want to build on that success, and we are encouraging anyone in football to take our Play Safe Pledge to support the campaign.

“Another of our key targets is for 100,000 people to take part in our free online Safeguarding Awareness Course for Parents and Carers by the end of 2024. The feedback that we’ve received from parents and carers is that the course is excellent, so we hope everyone will take the short time it takes to complete it.”

Ian Critchley, National Police Chiefs’ Council – Lead for Child Protection and Abuse Investigation said: “The fight against child sexual abuse will never stop, and the Play Safe campaign highlights the focus and priority that society must place on tackling these awful crimes. Policing is working hard to target offenders and safeguard children, but we need everyone to play their part in having conversations with young people, as well as identifying early and reporting those who pose a risk to children.

“We know only too well from courageous victim testimonies of the lifelong harm abuse has on a child, and there is a collective responsibility to prevent it and root out those who commit these appalling acts of abuse . Education is one area that is fundamental to ensuring the safety of young people, and it is really encouraging to see that Play Safe is embraced by so many across the footballing community. This valuable work is fully supported by all of us in policing.”

Make sure you all follow the simple rules when out watching County this weekend – and they are:

– Respect yourself and our great Club
– Respect the opponents, their supporters and their facilities
– Respect the Match Officials. We are all role-models to our children – so model the behaviour we want them to display
– Enjoy it and remember – these kids are the future of our great game!

It would be greatly appreciated if you could take the online course – available here: https://learn.englandfootball.com/courses/safeguarding/safeguarding-awareness-for-parents-and-carers and if you do, hand a copy of your certificate to your age-group coach and let’s get as inclusive and as safe as we possibly can!