Abuse scan­dal - what we know

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

LON­DON: The sex abuse scan­dal that has rocked English foot­ball’s foun­da­tions has seen new rev­e­la­tions ev­ery day since they first sur­faced a fort­night ago.

Here AFP Sports takes a look at what we know so far:


At least seven youth coaches or scouts-three of whom are now dead-have been ac­cused of sex­ual abuse, although the Na­tional Po­lice Chiefs Coun­cil re­vealed on Fri­day there are 83 po­ten­tial suspects. Two of those still alive-for­mer Crewe Alexan­dra youth coach Barry Ben­nell, who has served three jail terms for sex of­fences, and North­ern Ir­ish­man Jim McCaf­ferty, who served as kit­man and a scout at Celtic-have been charged. Ben­nell, who also had links with Manch­ester City, Stoke and Leeds, was found un­con­scious in a ho­tel near Lon­don be­fore be­ing charged with eight counts of sex abuse whilst McCaf­ferty spoke to the Ir­ish Mir­ror as he wanted to ‘cleanse his soul’ be­fore walk­ing into a po­lice sta­tion where he was sub­se­quently charged although with non-foot­ball linked of­fences com­mit­ted in Ul­ster.


Some of the big­gest names in English foot­ball such as Chelsea and Manch­ester City fig­ure among the 98 clubs from all lev­els the Na­tional Po­lice Chiefs Coun­cil (NPCC) say have been ‘im­pacted’. The present Chelsea regime has at­tracted a wel­ter of crit­i­cism for pay­ing com­pen­sa­tion to for­mer youth player Gary John­son­who was abused by ex-Chelsea scout Ed­die Heath in the 1970s when the club was un­der dif­fer­ent own­er­ship-but with a gag­ging order at­tached in 2015. He broke that con­di­tion to go pub­lic and the club is­sued a state­ment ‘apol­o­gis­ing pro­fusely’ for his suf­fer­ing. An­other Pre­mier League club who are in the sights of for­mer play­ers is Southamp­ton. Around a dozen have claimed they were abused by for­mer youth coach Bob Hig­gins with some tak­ing le­gal ac­tion against the Saints. Hig­gins was found not guilty of sex abuse in 1992. Three years ear­lier, po­lice and so­cial ser­vices is­sued a joint let­ter warn­ing he was dan­ger­ous to chil­dren. He has yet to com­ment.


The num­ber of vic­tims, ac­cord­ing to the NPCC, still stands at around 350 although that fig­ure could well rise as ‘Op­er­a­tion Hy­drant’-the over­all in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his­toric sex abuse cov­er­ing all walks of life-sifts through the al­le­ga­tions, “with pro­cesses to de­ter­mine if the re­fer­ral re­lates to a victim or a wit­ness and whether the in­for­ma­tion re­ceived is new or a du­pli­ca­tion of in­for­ma­tion al­ready re­ceived”.


Present FA chair­man Greg Clarke doesn’t be­lieve so although he ad­mits peo­ple may have pre­ferred to turn a blind eye to the ru­mours. The FA do not emerge well from the 1997 Chan­nel Four doc­u­men­tary ex­pos­ing sex abuse in foot­ball dis­miss­ing the al­le­ga­tions with a ‘no com­ment’. How­ever, four years later they launched a re­view into child pro­tec­tion at foot­ball clubs led by an emi­nent spe­cial­ist, Pro­fes­sor Celia Brack­en­bridge. Meant to last four years it was abruptly halted in 2003. The re­searchers crit­i­cised the clubs’ at­ti­tude and added the clubs were at log­ger­heads with the FA over the ‘im­por­tance of the issue’. Clarke, who has only been in the job for a few months, has launched a re­view headed by an emi­nent lawyer to un­cover how much the FA knew about the al­le­ga­tions raised down the years in what he has de­scribed as be­ing the big­gest cri­sis in English foot­ball that he could re­call.


Aside from the FA re­view, such is the breadth of the scan­dal that 21 of the United King­dom’s 45 ter­ri­to­rial po­lice forces are hold­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions. The NPCC said on Fri­day ev­ery call or al­le­ga­tion was be­ing acted upon as quickly as pos­si­ble but given the num­ber of claims not all could be dealt with im­me­di­ately. “As the num­ber of calls be­ing re­ceived across the service is higher than usual, it may take longer than nor­mal for an of­fi­cer from a lo­cal force to make con­tact to fol­low up from the ini­tial call,” they said. —AFP

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