Sev­eral Bri­tish clubs hushed up abuse: Lawyer

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

There are claims “sev­eral” Bri­tish foot­ball clubs have used gag­ging or­ders to si­lence vic­tims of sex­ual abuse at the hands of youth coaches, a lawyer work­ing with vic­tims has said. Chelsea have apol­o­gised to for­mer player Gary John­son, who was abused by late chief scout Ed­die Heath, af­ter waiv­ing a con­fi­den­tial­ity clause in a 50,000 pounds ($63,850, 59,230 eu­ros) agree­ment they made with him. Lawyer Ed­ward Smethurst, who helped set up the Off­side Trust for abuse vic­tims, said play­ers forced to sign non-dis­clo­sure agree­ments in re­turn for com­pen­sa­tion were com­ing for­ward “all the time”. “Cer­tainly, the al­le­ga­tions have been made by vic­tims that con­fi­den­tial­ity clauses have been used in re­la­tion to other clubs, but I’m not in a po­si­tion to in­de­pen­dently ver­ify this,” he was quoted as say­ing by Bri­tish news­pa­pers yes­ter­day.

“It’s un­fold­ing as we speak. It’s a num­ber. It’s sev­eral, (but) less than five.” The Off­side Trust, set up by abuse vic­tims Andy Wood­ward, Steve Wal­ters and Chris Unsworth, launched in Manch­ester on Mon­day. Since Wood­ward came for­ward three weeks ago to re­veal he was abused by con­victed pae­dophile Barry Ben­nell dur­ing his time at Crewe Alexan­dra, a wave of al­le­ga­tions has swept through Bri­tish foot­ball. Eigh­teen Bri­tish po­lice forces are in­ves­ti­gat­ing claims of sex­ual abuse span­ning four decades and lines of in­quiry are re­port­edly be­ing pur­sued at 55 clubs. Queens Park Rangers are the lat­est club to have been touched by the scan­dal, the Lon­don side re­veal­ing they have been made aware of al­le­ga­tions against for­mer chief scout Chris Gieler, who died in 2004. “The club takes these al­le­ga­tions very se­ri­ously and will co­op­er­ate fully in any forth­com­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” the sec­ond-tier club said in a state­ment. “Any form of abuse has no place in foot­ball or so­ci­ety.”

Smethurst, who is based in Manch­ester, said the same names were be­ing re­peated by abuse vic­tims and some al­leged abusers were still work­ing at the high­est lev­els of the sport.

“There are spe­cific al­le­ga­tions against spe­cific in­di­vid­u­als, many of whom have been ru­moured to be in­volved for a long time, some of whom still work in the se­nior ech­e­lons of foot­ball, and it’s ex­tremely wor­ry­ing,” he said. “There are cer­tain names who are com­ing in who do come up re­peat­edly.” Eng­land’s Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion an­nounced on Tues­day that a new lawyer has been placed in charge of its in­ter­nal re­view of the scan­dal. Bar­ris­ter Clive Shel­don has re­placed Kate Gal­lafent “in the light of the in­creased scope of the re­view” and “with re­spect to her other pro­fes­sional com­mit­ments”.

Shel­don’s pre­vi­ous work in­cludes a num­ber of in­ves­ti­ga­tory re­views in­volv­ing mat­ters of child pro­tec­tion and safe­guard­ing. The FA also re­vealed the terms of ref­er­ence for its re­view, which will “com­mence im­me­di­ately” but has no fixed dead­line. “The pre­cise num­ber of play­ers, al­leged abusers and clubs as yet is un­known,” the FA said in a state­ment.

“The FA has de­ter­mined that it is nec­es­sary to in­struct ex­ter­nal lead­ing coun­sel to con­duct a re­view into what if any­thing the FA and clubs knew about these al­le­ga­tions at the rel­e­vant time (and) what ac­tion was taken or should have taken place.

“The FA con­tin­ues to work closely with the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties and re­spects the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the po­lice be­ing co­or­di­nated by Oper­a­tion Hy­drant into child­hood sex­ual abuse in foot­ball.” — AFP

BOS­TON: Bos­ton Bru­ins right wing David Pas­tr­nak, right, shoots his game-win­ning goal over Florida Pan­thers goalie Roberto Luongo (1) dur­ing the over­time pe­riod of an NHL hockey game in Bos­ton, Mon­day. The Bru­ins won 4-3. At right is Pan­thers de­fense­man Michael Mathe­son. — AP

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