Sexual abuse in English football exposed as victims speak out
Former English football players who were subjected to years of sexual abuse by youth team coaches entrusted with their care are breaking cover to expose the game's dark secrets.
Harrowing stories of assaults on young players by men they relied on to turn them into professionals are forcing authorities and clubs to finally address how child abusers were able to exploit their positions of power and why the behavior wasn't confronted earlier.
The abuses were first uncovered two decades ago with the conviction of English coach Barry Bennell in the United States and his homeland. Bennell worked in academies across northwest England including Manchester City, Stoke and Crewe Alexandra, which was renowned as a center for turning raw talent into the complete footballer.
The torment suffered by players is only now receiving more widespread attention along with a determination to discover how far reaching sexual exploitation of youngsters has been in English football.
Four police forces across England, including London, have opened investigations after being contacted about Bennell and other unnamed people.
Leading clubs Manchester City and Newcastle said they are assisting authorities and the players' union has been guiding the players who revealed their identities.
Andy Woodward, who went on to play for Sheffield United, testified in Bennell's 1998 court case and was the first player to go public recently a year after contacting Bennett.
Since then, other retired players have been emerging to tell their stories of abuse at the hands of other coaches. The prospect of boys being turned into well-paid football stars meant that parents often handed over control of their children to football clubs and their coaches.
Woodward's story gave other victims of Bennell and unnamed coaches the courage to come forward and compel authorities to end the inertia that surrounded the 1990s revelations.
Manchester City launched an investigation after David White and Paul Stewart, who played for the club across the 1980s and 1990s and went on to feature for England, came forward with their stories.