“The Offside Trust is a charity for survivors, run by survivors,” explains Steve Walters, Director of the groundbreaking organisation created to ‘combat child abuse in sport and support the healing journey of survivors.’
A victim of abuse during his early years as an academy footballer with Crewe Alexandra, Steve established the Offside Trust alongside Chris Unsworth in 2016 after a series of abuse allegations were made public by former academy footballers.
Today, Steve and Chris - who run a cleaning business and funeral directors respectively - ensure that there is a place of support for fellow survivors, and have spoken with over 100 people who have opened up about their own experiences.
“We’re there to support any survivors that come forward,” Steve explains. “Over 100 survivors have disclosed to members of the Offside Trust and we kind of signpost them to the relevant support mechanisms. That’s a lot of survivors calling.”
The Offside Trust also works with football clubs and organisations to improve safeguarding across the sport, and work to raise awareness of their cause until one day abuse in sport is eliminated.
Training members of the Trust - all survivors of abuse - to be able to offer more professional support to survivors who reach out to them, the Trust also organises days for their members to meet, watch a game of football and work with clubs to discuss safeguarding in sport.
This Saturday, Steve and other survivors will be present at Selhurst Park to watch Crystal Palace host Aston Villa. While there, they will help to integrate new members of the Trust with one another and develop the support network provided by the charity in doing so. They will also deliver a presentation to the members and watch a presentation from Crystal Palace’s Head of Safeguarding, Marcus Puddephatt.
“The safeguarding in the last two-three years has improved 10-fold at every football club, especially in the Premier League," Steve says. "Years ago, there were hardly any members of staff at most football clubs and now there are one, two, three, four or five full-time members of staff who are there for safeguarding. There’s been a huge impact and positive effect.”