How IWF partnered with Everton FC to educate young men Article icon


This campaign was 'highly commended' in the Best Partnership category at the CorpComms Awards 2017

Two in five British men aged between 16 and 24 would not tell a family member if they accidentally stumbled across images or videos of child sex abuse while 35 per cent would also not tell their friends. It is the demographic group most likely to stumble across such images but least likely to report.

    They are deterred from reporting indecent images because they fear that they will be questioned by the police (58 per cent), be forced to provide personal details (43 per cent) or questioned on how they found the content (62 per cent).

    This is the stark reality facing the Internet Watch Foundation, a Cambridge-based charity that works to minimise the availability of online sexual abuse content, and specifically to remove videos and photographs of child sexual abuse content. In fact, all people have to do is to send the charity the URL: no police, no personal information and no questions.

    Last year, the Internet Watch Foundation embarked on a unique educational project to raise awareness of its work and also to encourage young men to report online child sexual abuse images and videos when it partnered with Everton FC on See it. Report it. The key messages that the charity wanted to convey was that it didn't care how the images were found (67 per cent of young men fear that people would think they were actively searching for indecent child images) and that they should not be ignored.

    More than two thirds of young men who have not heard of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) close down the window when they stumble across indecent images of children on the Internet, and delete their history. The campaign was designed to educate them to paste the link into the IWF website instead - helping to eradicate indecent images of children from the Internet.

    The partnership with the Premier League club allowed the IWF to concentrate on the city of Liverpool, although some of its target audience was based in London. It was the first time that a football club had partnered with the charity.

    Adam Green, head of safeguarding at Everton, admitted that there was ‘a stigma around sensitive issues like this’, but said the club was ‘not afraid to take the lead in the world of football to help promote positive and educational safety messages to both our fans and the wider community’.

    The initiative focused around a series of 25 bespoke workshops which were delivered across Everton’s youth teams, the wider footballing community, including staff and participants at its charity Everton in the Community, and pupils at the Everton Free School and Sixth Form College.

    The workshops concentrated on three areas: technology and risk, exploring exposure to online risks; sexting and revenge porn, exploring the issue of consent; and, pornography – fact or fiction?, examining the impact of pornography on sexual behaviour. They were intended to educate participants on each area, such as what sexting means, and also provide clarification as to what is legal and illegal sexual behaviour. The workshops also provided information on what should be reported and also where reports should be made, as well as guidance for staying safe online. One participant actually said: ‘I did not know what the legal age for nude/sexual photos or videos was before today: now I do,’ while 78 per cent of attendees said they now understood that consent meant permission.

    The See it. Report it campaign was launched at Everton’s fixture against Burnley on 15 April, which The Toffees won 3,1. It was promoted by a double page spread in the match programme, a social media and traditional press campaign, and online with two videos featuring midfielder Gareth Barry, goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg and Under-23s midfielder Kieran Dowell.     Posters were also displayed across Goodison Park, London Underground stations close to football clubs and the Premier League, which read Just because it is closed, doesn’t mean it is gone.

    About 1,200 fans were also surveyed on their way into the match, which revealed that 75 per cent did not know they could safely and anonymously report sexual abuse images and videos of children if they saw them online. Every single fan surveyed said they were proud of Everton for participating in the campaign.

    A campaign microsite, which included videos and links to the IWF website, was created, while an email was sent to a group of large employers, schools and colleges to encourage engagement. Within one month of launch, the site had received more than 400 visitors. An analysis found that the majority of website traffic came from direct URL searches, most likely found on match day collateral. A ComRes survey on behalf of IWF following the campaign found that, while awareness of the charity remained consistent at a national level, at around 17 per cent, there were signs of cut through in the North West. One in five young men based in the North West are now aware that the issue of online sexual images of children is getting worse, against just ten per cent of young men in the South East. And 21 per cent of those who regularly watch sport are also aware, compared to nine per cent of those who never do.