British cops widen abuse probe
More victims come forward with accusations against youth coaches
Around 350 people have come forward to tell British police they were victims of child sexual abuse by soccer coaches, deepening a scandal that has rocked the sport.
The scale of the abuse began to emerge last week after a string of ex-players, including England internationals, told of the crimes inflicted upon them, including years of being repeatedly raped.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council said a “significant” number of calls had been made to them after the players spoke out.
Announcing the figures, the NPCC said they were based on existing investigations dating back to 2014, as well as a new helpline set up by British charity the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).
The NSPCC said the helpline received 860 calls in its first week, enabling it to refer 60 cases to police or social services within 72 hours of being launched.
That was more than triple the number of referrals made in the first three days of the helpline set up for victims of Jimmy Savile, a serial pedophile and former BBC television commentator.
“We are working closely with the Football Association to ensure the response to this significant and growing number of victims, at all levels of football, is co-ordinated effectively,” said chief constable Simon Bailey, the NPCC’s lead officer for child protection.
He encouraged anyone with information about child abuse in soccer to come forward, “regardless of how long ago the abuse may have taken place”.
A quarter of the police forces across Britain are investigating cases that have made daily headlines over the past two weeks.
Greater Manchester Police said they had identified 10 suspects and its inquiry was widening on a daily basis.
“We are investigating reports from 35 victims and we have identified 10 suspects,” said GMP assistant chief constable Debbie Ford.
FA chief executive Martin Glenn said on Thursday he does not believe child abuse within British soccer has been covered up.
“It will help uncover some issues that can’t happen again, but do I think there has been a cover-up? I doubt it,” said Glenn, whose organization has established an internal review of the allegations.
Premier League leader Chelsea has opened an investigation following newspaper claims that it bought the silence of a former player who said he was abused by a club scout during the 1970s.
Glenn said the FA would come down hard on any club found to have hushed up reports of abuse.
“FA chairman Greg Clarke is committed to a full review, shining a torch on what has happened in the past in football,” he told reporters at a Wembley media conference to introduce new England manager Gareth Southgate.
“If there has been evidence of hushing up, when it’s our turn to apply the rules we absolutely will, regardless of the size of club.”
The scale of the abuse began to emerge after former players Andy Woodward, Steve Walters and Paul Stewart last week revealed what they had been subjected to at the hands of youth coaches.
Convicted child molester Barry Bennell has been accused by several players of abusing them when he worked for Crewe Alexandra, Manchester City and Stoke City, beginning in the 1970s.
Bennell is the target of five separate police investigations and on Tuesday he was charged with eight new counts of child abuse, prosecutors said.
Former Newcastle United player David Eatock is the latest player to speak out.
Now 40, Eatock said he was a victim of former youth coach George Ormond, who was sentenced to six years in jail in 2002 for offenses committed over almost 25 years.
“One of the more difficult parts for me is that I wasn’t as young as some of the others,” Eatock told The Guardian newspaper.
“I was 18 when I got to know George Ormond. I can still remember the look on his face, how terrifying it was.
“It has been like a knot in my brain and I’m now trying to pick apart that knot.”
have been identified by police investigating the sex abuse scandal in British youth soccer It will help uncover some issues that can’t happen again, but do I think there has been a cover-up? I doubt it.” Martin Glenn, FA chief executive