Football clubs under scrutiny in light of recent allegations of sexual abuse

 

Holding handsIn recent days, more than 20 ex-footballers have made allegations of abuse against individuals involved in youth coaching. Former Crewe Alexandra FC player, Andy Woodward was the first to speak out a week ago about his alleged abuse by Coach Barry Bennell.

Other players for Crewe have also now come forward to allege that they too were  abused by Bennell, who has now been charged with eight offences of sexual assault against a boy aged under 14.  The FA and Crewe have commenced their own independent inquiries

The Professional Footballer’s Association has said that six or seven clubs are connected to allegations made including Stoke, Newcastle, Blackpool, Manchester City and Leeds. Police forces investigating such allegations are Cheshire, Hampshire, Northumbria, the Metropolitan Police and Greater Manchester.

The NSPCC has received more than 100 calls to its dedicated football sex abuse line. The NSPCC and Football Association are urging players and others involved in football from grassroots up to the Premier League to contact the line to get the help and support they need.

Greg Clarke, the Football Association Chairman says, “I think institutionally, all organisations in the old days used to protect themselves by keeping quiet and closing ranks. That’s completely inappropriate and unacceptable today…” The attitude and regulation of sport and sports coaches must be updated bearing in mind the power individuals often have over the young people they deal with and the apparent advantage that some are willing to take.

Gary Walker, panel member of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, has vast experience of representing survivors of abuse. He says, “It is saddening that the reach of such abuse has apparently spread to sport, often a safe haven for young people.  Looking forward, it is vital that the child protection safeguards across all sports are reviewed to make sure that the risk of this happening in the future is reduced.

I hope that the FA and Crewe recognise the importance of their investigations being carried out fully and quickly, and that support and advice is given to those who have been affected. “

If you or someone you know has been affected by issues raised in this article, please contact Gary for advice at gary.walker@enablelaw.com or call him on 03303 116772.  Alternatively, call our specialist lawyers, dedicated to helping survivors of abuse, on 0800 044 8488 or click here to make an online enquiry.