FA's sex abuse inquiry must be made public - MP Damian Collins

Damian Collins, chairman of the UK's Culture, Media and Sport committee, has backed the Football Association's decision to widen its inquiry into historic sexual abuse in the game but said the final report must be made public.

Earlier on Tuesday, the FA announced it was dropping the barrister it initially asked to lead the review, Kate Gallafent QC, and replacing her with Clive Sheldon QC instead.

In a statement, the governing body said this was in "light of the increased scope of the review,'' which has been prompted by an avalanche of allegations about sexual abuse in football dating back to the 1970s, and the decision had been made "with respect to her other professional commitments.''

But Gallafent's appointment had also attracted some criticism because of a perceived lack of experience in handling child abuse cases of this size and the fact she has represented the FA in the past.

Speaking to Press Association Sport, Collins said: "I have more confidence now that we have a degree of separation between the FA and the QC leading the review, so I welcome that. I am also pleased to see that Sheldon appears to have the power to go into clubs but there are still a few areas that require more clarification.

"First, does he have the power to go wherever the FA has jurisdiction? He should be able to amend the scope of his inquiries if he needs to. And second, the only grounds for not publishing his report in full should be that it might prejudice a criminal investigation.''

Referring to the FIFA report into the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which has still not been published in full, the Conservative MP added: "We can't have another [Michael] Garcia situation, where the FA board edits a report simply because they don't like it.''

The FA's announcement of Sheldon's terms of reference said he would start immediately and a decision on whether to widen his inquiry would be made "by mutual agreement'' between him and the governing body.

On the issue of publication, it said "the FA wishes any reports to be transparent and to be published'' but the review will "liaise with the FA'' and other relevant bodies before publication.

Sheldon, himself, was described as a specialist in high-profile cases involving public figures and his previous work includes investigations into child protection at major institutions.

The formal purpose of his inquiry will be to uncover what was known about allegations of sexual abuse within youth football, and the steps the FA took to address those allegations, from the 1970s through to 2005.

That end point may seem arbitrary but it has been chosen as that was when an Independent Football Commission report gave the game a relatively clean bill of health for the safeguarding policies it had introduced since the late 1990s.

It is widely acknowledged the FA, the leagues and clubs made considerable progress in terms of child protection in the years just before 2005 but it has also become glaringly obvious that they were starting from a very low base.

Shortly after the FA officially started its response to what its chairman Greg Clarke has already referred to as perhaps the "biggest crisis'' to face the game, another club issued a statement to say it was investigating claims of sexual abuse.

Queens Park Rangers announced they were taking allegations about Chris Gieler, who died in 2004, "very seriously.'' He worked for the club as a youth coach and scout for 30 years.

And then the Police Service of Northern Ireland confirmed it has become the latest force to launch investigations into fresh allegations of abuse in football, bringing the total number of UK police forces now looking at this area to 21.

With the most recent figures, now a few days old, for the scale of the scandal being 55 different clubs and 350 potential victims, there are growing calls for a much wider public inquiry.

That was the message on Monday at the launch of the Offside Trust, an independent campaign set up by three former footballers who were victims of abuse at the beginning of their careers, and it was a cry picked up on Tuesday by the UK's Liberal Democrats.

The party's leader, Tim Farron, said: "An organisation investigating itself never works and isn't what the public or victims want to see. I urge the government to call an independent inquiry into the abuse that is being unearthed in football.''

So far, those calls are being resisted, with ministers keen to let the police investigations move forward and the FA to lead football's response, but with a public inquiry already under way into child abuse in hospitals, schools and other institutions, it is possible that football's problems could come under its scope too.