6 October 2013 By Derek Alexander , Norman Silvester
THE players, aged between 13 and 16, were filmed shirtless, swimming and sleeping while on a trip to Florida and the video makes "very uncomfortable viewing" according to one SYFA boss.
A HOME video of young Scottish footballers on an American trip is under investigation, we can reveal today.
Scottish Youth Football Association chiefs are studying the hour-long DVD which includes footage of the boys with their tops off, swimming and sleeping.
Yesterday, chief executive David Little, who has viewed the video, said: “There are numerous parts of the video which clearly breach the SYFA’s very strict child protection and supervision guidelines.
“It makes very uncomfortable viewing and we are launching an immediate and urgent investigation into various aspects of this trip.”
Around 18 boys aged between 13 and 16, all from the SYFA West Region, were on the £11,000 trip to SasvariWay Soccer Training Center in Florida’s Apopka in June 2010.
The footage includes scenes of them playing football and training.
But, in other sequences, boys are seen swimming and apparently asleep.
One 90-second sequence shows a young boy playing in a swimming pool at night.
Before he starts swimming, a male voice is heard saying: “There’s the pool, jump in.
“I’ll be able to see you better in the water rather than out of it.”
In another scene, a topless boy is filmed while he’s lying sound asleep.
A source said: “Various people who have been involved in child protection have watched this video and each one of them has raised serious concerns.”
The boys were accompanied by nine adults, including parents of some of them, on the three-week trip. It is not known who shot or edited the footage.
Police Scotland child protection officers launched an investigation several months ago but the footage didn’t meet the specialist criteria that would allow a prosecution.
A police spokesman said: “A full investigation was launched following a complaint. No criminality was established.”
Now SYFA chiefs have started their own investigation into the trip and plan to meet police to discuss the video. They claim the trip wasn’t sanctioned – despite it being attended by West Region coaches.
SYFA West Region secretary Jim Smith, 50, helped organise the trip.
The Royal Bank of Scotland worker, who lives in Carntyne, Glasgow, has coached youth football for more than 30 years and was awarded an MBE for his services to the sport in 2010.
He is currently suspended from coaching along with five other SYFA officials over entirely separate allegations that they failed to properly supervise teenage boys during an under-17s tournament in Hungary in July.
It’s claimed the youngsters managed to get alcohol on the trip.
Smith said yesterday: “I’m aware of the investigation but it would be inappropriate for me to comment.”
The SYFA’s West Region are responsible for the organisation of youth teams in the the west of Scotland.
Earlier this year, a coach was suspended after he claimed a number of his colleagues were unsuitable to work with youngsters.
He had given an 11-page statement to SYFA bosses – but refused to sign it.
He was suspended and banned from youth football for 12 months after he was accused of making malicious allegations.
Last night, officials at the SYFA – who are the governing body for youth football in Scotland – said they had been shocked by the video.
They promised a thorough investigation and disciplinary action against any members found to have acted inappropriately.
Chief executive Little said: “We will also be contacting the police as a matter of urgency and asking them to investigate the matter again.
“To be clear, this trip was not organised or paid for by the SYFA.
“It is disturbing to see evidence brought forward which appears to give the impression that our West Region was used to facilitate this trip.
“If anyone associated with the SYFA has, in a private capacity, sought to pass this off as an official trip, the most severe disciplinary sanctions will be brought against them.
“Child protection is the number one priority of this organisation. We have a detailed and long-standing set of safeguards, guidelines and rules to ensure children can enjoy the sport in a safe and secure environment.
“As part of our investigation, we will be examining what lessons can be learned.”