CONCERNS have been raised around the safety of young and vulnerable people using a mobile app designed by the Football Association of Wales (FAW).

Some have said they are worried that the Cymru Football app makes information regarding the names, ages, and locations of youngsters and vulnerable people in Wales available and accessible to anyone.

But the FAW has hit back at these suggestions, saying that, beyond basic information, app users can opt out of making many identifying features visible to others.

This week, the Argus has been contacted by a parent of a youngster who plays football in Gwent, who was concerned to find their child visible on the app, despite attempting to prevent this from happening.

The parent, who did not wish to be named, said: “Clubs in Wales have to register players of all ages on the FAW’s secure database.

“But now, the FAW is transferring the data onto the Cymru Football app – an open and unsecure app.

“It shows the players name, age, their club, and where they might be playing on any given day.

“I’m concerned because it reveals information about vulnerable children – children subject to court orders, children placed by the Home Office, the privacy settings are not good enough”.

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Initially, it was thought that football players of all ages would be registered on the app, though it now appears as though anyone born on or after September 1, 2010 will not be on the app – as there are no competitive matches at this level, and as a result, there is no need for fixture lists to be published.

However, concerns remain that youngsters aged between 12-16 will continue to have some personal information visible on the app, which is free to download.

A spokesman for the FAW has said that for safeguarding reasons, no pictures of youngsters in this age range will be publicly visible on the app.

It is believed that the name, age, and club that a person plays for will be mandatory information on the app, and while restrictions can be made to limit the information, the default position is for all information to be available.

Responding to concerns that the app reveals where a person might be playing on any given weekend, the spokesman noted that even prior to the existence of this app, fixture lists were published by the FAW, and that details as to which specific players feature is only made available after the fact.

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Statement from the FAW in full

In a statement sent to the Argus, the FAW said: “When a person registers on the FAW’s Football Management System (known as COMET) under any role (player, coach, official or referee), they have to sign a registration form. 

“For players aged under 16, the registration form is signed by the child’s parent/guardian. In signing the form, the individual is also agreeing to FAW Rules and also the FAW’s Privacy Notice. The FAW’s Privacy Notice sets out how the person’s details appear on the FAW websites and the Cymru Football app. This is the basis of consent to use the person’s details on the app.

 “In order to take the necessary safeguarding measures, the Cymru Football app has the following default privacy settings:

  •  The app also does not contain any contact details for any individual, regardless of age
  • The app does not contain the details of any mini players (those born on or after September 1, 2010) since they do not play competitive football and therefore their matches do not appear on the app. There is no reason to therefore list these players on the app
  • For safeguarding reasons, the photos of all junior players (those aged between 12 and 16) are hidden on the app

"On each person’s COMET profile, there is a privacy setting. These privacy settings can be amended so for any one person, some, or all, of their details can be hidden from appearing on the app.

"We have recently written to all parents/guardians to remind them of what details (if any) appear on the app in respect of their child and to give them the opportunity to ask their club to amend the privacy settings so that they can then choose to hide all of their details should they wish to do so (or they can leave the settings as they are).  We have done this since it’s the parent/guardian that gave the consent in the first instance and therefore they are the correct individuals to make decisions on behalf of their child should they wish to change the details.

"They can then ask their clubs to amend the privacy settings and clubs have been informed on how they can quickly do this. Any changes can be made before the junior football season starts."