LONDON: Four police forces say they are now investigating allegations of historical child sex abuse within football.
This follows the decision of four former players to speak out about being abused as children by ex-Crewe Alexandra coach Barry Bennell. The four were Andy Woodward, who was the first to go public, Steve Walters, Chris Unsworth and Jason Dunford
Hampshire Police has said it was looking into claims of “non-recent child abuse within the football community” while the Northumbria and Metropolitan forces have also opened investigations.
Cheshire Police said it had received a “growing number of disclosures” which included referrals from the children’s charity, and allegations have been made “against more than one individual.”
An NSPCC hotline – 0800 023 2642 – was set up after the abuse claims came to light and has received more than 100 calls.
MP Damian Collins, the chairman of the culture, media and sport committee, has said he wants specific answers from the Football Association over the historic allegations.
He said: “The FA need to look back to see were mistakes made in the past. Were clues overlooked? Was not enough done to investigate a problem that they may have been perceived?”
Unsworth and Dunford waived their anonymity to speak out for the first time on Friday.
Unsworth, 44, said he “thought he had to come forward… and help everybody”, after his girlfriend showed him a BBC interview with ex-Crewe player Woodward.
He had been a youth player at Manchester City with Bennell before moving to Crewe with him when he was about 12 in the mid-1980s.
Unsworth said he had stayed at Bennell’s house several times and the coach sometimes had two or three boys in the bed at once, where he would abuse them.
He added: “We never spoke to each other about it. I was raped between 50 and 100 times.”
Dunford said he had been staying at a Butlins holiday camp after winning a football competition, when Bennell attempted to touch him in bed.
He later moved to different boys’ football teams and said at one point another coach also attempted to abuse him. He has now given a report to the police.
Neither player turned professional, in part because they felt Bennell drove them away from the game.
Bennell, who also worked as a youth football scout, was jailed in 1998 for nine years and also served a four-year sentence in the United States.
In 2015, he was given a two-year term for sexually abusing a boy at a training camp in Macclesfield, but is now out of prison.
Cheshire Police said 11 people had come forward since Woodward spoke out, including fellow ex-Crewe player Steve Walters, 44, who said he had been abused by Bennell, when he was 13 or 14, during a trip to Anglesey.
In other developments:
Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, which represents players, said the PFA and the FA had been aware of rumours of abuse but there had been “no cover-up”
Karen Bradley, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, said she had spoken to the FA and PFA to offer government support and ensure they were working with police and other agencies
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse said it was monitoring the allegations and its “terms of reference are broad enough to include failures by sports clubs”
PFA Scotland’s chief executive Fraser Wishart said it would be “naive to think” the allegations were unique to one part of the UK and urged players of all levels to report any claims of abuse
In 2001, the FA put in place new rules to protect children, requiring adult and junior teams at all levels to have a trained safeguarding or welfare officer.