Over 20 police organisations start to investigate sex abuse in football

Twenty-one police organisations have begun investigations into historical sex abuse, following revelations by former Sheffield United Andy Woodward.

Woodward waived his right to anonymity three weeks ago to say that he was a victim of sexual abuse by football coach Barry Bennell whilst he was a young footballer.

 Since November 16 a number of former players have also waived their rights to anonymity to state that they were abused as young footballers. Amongst them, another former Blade, David White, and former England player Paul Stewart.

On November 25, Woodward and three other former players,  Chris Unsworth, Jason Dunford and Steve Walters appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire show to say that they had suffered abuse at the hands of Bennell.

Following the show, the NSPCC opened up a football sexual abuse hotline. In its first week of use, the hotline had over 860 calls, more than three times the amount of calls that the NSPCC received following the Jimmy Saville allegations.

Three days after the Victoria Derbyshire show, Bennell was taken to hospital after being found unconscious at his home.

The allegations have come a shock to the football community with 350 people claiming they are victims of sex abuse. The allegations span between 55 amateur and professional clubs. Shadow sports minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan has warned the scandal could seriously damage the reputation of football in the UK.

The FA have opened an internal investigation into the abuse claims.
The FA have opened an internal investigation into the abuse claims.

The PFA said “hundreds of former players may have been victims of sexual abuse at football clubs in the 80’s and 90’s.”

In recent days, more allegations of abuse have come out. Former Chelsea player Gary Johnson was paid £50,000 by the club to prevent him speaking publicly about abuse he received as a youth player in the 1970’s.

Sky Sports pundit Matt Le Tissier is the highest profile player to speak out, stating that he was given a ‘naked massage’ whilst a youth team player at Southampton.

The allegations have led the Football Association to open up their own internal review, in the hope of understanding what information was known at the time of the claimed abuse.