Ben­nell charged with child abuse

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

For­mer coach Barry Ben­nell, who is at the cen­tre of a scan­dal rock­ing English foot­ball, was on Tues­day charged with eight counts of child abuse, pros­e­cu­tors said.

Ben­nell, who has al­ready served three jail terms for pre­vi­ous child sex of­fences, has faced a slew of new al­le­ga­tions by at least 20 for­mer foot­ballers span­ning three decades be­gin­ning in the 1970s when he was work­ing for Crewe Alexan­dra, Manch­ester City and Stoke City. “Fol­low­ing a re­view of the ev­i­dence, in ac­cor­dance with the Code for Crown Pros­e­cu­tors, Mr Ben­nell, 62, has to­day been charged with eight of­fences of sex­ual as­sault against a boy un­der the age of 14,” said a state­ment from the Crown Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice (CPS).

Ben­nell, who it was re­vealed on Mon­day had to be hos­pi­talised when he was found un­con­scious in a ho­tel near Lon­don, will ap­pear in court on De­cem­ber 14.

The lat­est charges stem from Cheshire Po­lice but six other po­lice forces are in­ves­ti­gat­ing ac­cu­sa­tions made against Ben­nell in a scan­dal Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion Chair­man Greg Clarke has called “the great­est cri­sis” in English foot­ball he could re­call.

For­mer New­cas­tle player Derek Bell, who waived his anonymity to the Guardian, claimed he was sub­jected to “hor­ren­dous” sex­ual abuse at his lo­cal boys foot­ball club in the 1970s. “It was pure, un­be­liev­able heartache. Think­ing my mam and dad were next door and he was per­form­ing these sex­ual acts. He had groomed us for a cou­ple of years and he thought it was nor­mal,” Bell said. “Deep down in my mind I knew it wasn’t nor­mal, but I was so scared to speak and come out and say it wasn’t right.”

For­mer North­ern Ire­land in­ter­na­tional Mark Wil­liams spoke out, with Sky News re­veal­ing he had waived his anonymity to de­scribe his tor­ment. “My life has been af­fected ir­re­versibly both per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally and it has been soul-de­stroy­ing to carry this bur­den for 30 years,” he said.

Po­lice Scot­land have also con­firmed they have launched a probe fol­low­ing abuse al­le­ga­tions north of the bor­der.

The FA has also launched its own in­ter­nal re­view ap­point­ing lead­ing lawyer Kate Gal­lafent, an ex­pert in child pro­tec­tion, to head it up. The Bri­tish Gov­ern­ment an­nounced on Tues­day they will bring the po­lice and the FA to­gether for a meet­ing on the de­vel­op­ing scan­dal.

Clarke took over as FA chair­man in Au­gust and has al­ready had to deal with the re­moval of Sam Al­lardyce as Eng­land coach over com­ments he made in a news­pa­per sting and the ‘pop­py­gate’ row with FIFA.

He told Sky News it was time to finally deal with the is­sues af­ter they had been ig­nored. “It’s cer­tainly the big­gest (cri­sis) I can re­mem­ber,” said Clarke. “I think the moral con­se­quences of fail­ing to deal with some of these is­sues in the past we must get to the bot­tom of.”

Clarke doesn’t know if the FA at the time de­lib­er­ately turned a blind eye to the go­ings on although a reporter who made a doc­u­men­tary about sex abuse in foot­ball for Chan­nel Four in 1997 has claimed there is a FA re­port from 2005 de­tail­ing 250 vic­tims and spread over a num­ber of clubs.

“I don’t know if there was a cover-up or not, I re­ally don’t know,” said Clarke.

Clarke told the BBC the FA re­view would not seek to speak to al­leged vic­tims, in agree­ment with the po­lice, nor would he con­fer with his pre­de­ces­sors as chair­man.

Mean­while, a news­pa­per re­port on Tues­day claimed Chelsea made a se­cret pay­ment to a for­mer youth team player who ac­cused a tal­ent scout, the late Ed­die Heath, of sex­u­ally as­sault­ing him dur­ing the 1970s. An undis­closed sum was given to the un­named for­mer player on the con­di­tion the al­leged abuse would not be made pub­lic, The Tele­graph re­ported, cit­ing a source.

The player went to the club around three years ago and has also spo­ken to the Metropoli­tan Po­lice, the news­pa­per added.

Ahead of the re­port be­ing pub­lished Chelsea an­nounced they have re­tained an ex­ter­nal law firm to carry out an in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­cern­ing an in­di­vid­ual em­ployed by the club in the 1970s, who is now dead.

“The club has con­tacted the FA to en­sure that all pos­si­ble as­sis­tance is pro­vided as part of their wider in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” a Chelsea state­ment read. — AFP

Barry Ben­nell

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