The football sexual abuse scandal is getting worse by the day. Referrals from calls to a dedicated football abuse hotline, supported and funded by the Football Association, more than tripled the number made in the first three days of the Jimmy Savile scandal, the NSPCC has revealed.
More than 860 calls have been made since lines opened on 23rd November.
Speaking to The Guardian, NSPCC chief executive, Peter Wanless, said there had been a “staggering surge” in the amount of people getting in touch.
He said, “The number of high-profile footballers bravely speaking out about their ordeal has rightly caught the attention of the entire country.
“We have had a staggering surge in calls to our football hotline, which reveals the worrying extent of abuse that had been going on within the sport.”
It is clear that the game has been hiding a terrible secret and officials cannot rule out that instances of abuse are not still occurring.
How the abuse story began
On 16th November 2016, footballer Andy Woodward bravely spoke to The Guardian’s Daniel Taylor, about his abuse at the hands of serial paedophile Barry Bennell.
He waived his right to anonymity as he believes there are many others who have also suffered sexual abuse given Bennell’s employment at Crewe Alexandra in the 1980s and 1990s and close association in the past with Stoke City and Manchester City, as well as junior teams in Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire and Greater Manchester.
Bennell was sentenced to nine years in prison in 1998 after admitting 23 specimen charges of sexual offences against six boys aged nine to 15. Following Mr Woodward’s interview, Bennell collapsed at his home and was taken to hospital.
He has also been charged with eight offences of sexual assault against a boy under the age of 14, according to the Crown Prosecution Service.
He is due to appear at South Cheshire magistrates court on 14 December.
Other victims coming forward
More than 20 victims have now come forward, alleging that they have suffered from sexual abuse when playing football as a child. Police have also received more than 250 calls relating to historical abuse allegations in football, meaning the Football Association (FA) could face substantial compensation claims in the future.
It emerged today that the FA is now investigating claims that Chelsea Football Club paid off a former youth player who was about to go public with allegations of child abuse against one of their coaches. The alleged victim is reported to have approached the club approximately three years ago with claims that former chief scout, Eddie Heath, abused him in the 1970s.
Heath, who helped develop a string of top players, including Ray Wilkins, Tommy Langley and Ray Lewington is now deceased.
The Football Association chairman Greg Clarke told The Guardian, “I find it morally repugnant that people would suppress reporting of crimes against children to protect their reputation. If anyone has behaved improperly, they will be held to account and that information will be released. The FA will not be part of any cover-up. If a club has behaved badly, they will be held to account.”
Mr Clarke also appeared to acknowledge that compensation may be payable to victims after admitting the scale of the crisis is unprecedented.
Support and compensation for victims of abuse
If you have been a victim of historical child sex abuse when participating in football or any other sport or activity, we can help you receive justice and compensation.
We will continue to report on this story as developments come to hand.
At IBB, our personal injury and child abuse team, led by Malcolm Underhill, has the expertise and knowledge to advise and represent you if you wish to make a claim following the recent revelations of sexual abuse in football and other sports. To talk about how we might be able to help, please phone us on 0333 123 9099, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in our contact form. Any discussions you have with us will be in the strictest of confidence and handled with the utmost sensitivity.