Sexual abuse in English soccer exposed as victims speak out

Sexual abuse in English soccer exposed as victims speak out

Investigations by British police into the sexual abuse of youngsters within English football has widened as more former players speak out about being abused as children by their coaches.

Last week Mr Woodward became the first to speak out publicly about his ordeal with Barry Bennell, a former coach who sexually abused young boys across three decades from the 1970s onward.

Other former professionals have since come forward to corroborate Woodward's claims and speak about their own experiences of abuse at the hands of Bennell, including England worldwide Paul Stewart.

United Kingdom children's charity the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) says it received more than 50 phone calls within the first two hours of setting up a hotline in relation to the claims.

Some of the claims have come from the NSPCC, which this week set up a dedicated hotline for football-related cases.

His abuse is back in the spotlight after former Crewe Alexandra player Andy Woodward gave a harrowing account to The Guardian of abuse he says was perpetrated by Bennell and which has blighted his life. I can only imagine the hurt inside I would feel if it was my child.

Former Manchester City youth team player Jason Dunford claimed the scandal is bigger than the one involving former broadcaster Jimmy Savile.

England captain Wayne Rooney, an ambassador for the NSPCC, said: 'I would encourage anyone who has or is suffering from abuse to call the NSPCC's new football helpline.

He said he had been nine years old when the abuse started.

A police force based near Crewe and Manchester said 11 people had contacted them already this week and that the allegations were made against more than one person.

In an interview with the Times this week, Mr Ackley said he was abused after being invited to stay at Bennell's house in the Peak District over weekends, during school holidays, while on football tours, and at camps at Butlins.

Bennell was convicted for a third time for sexual abuse in 2015 and received a two-year sentence.

As the scandal escalated on Thursday, Sportsmail was also given the identity of another coach who is alleged to have sexually abused at least one boy from a club's youth system.

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And yesterday Fraser Wishart, chief executive of players' union PFA Scotland, said it would be "naive to think that these allegations are unique to one part of the UK".

Football clubs and governing bodies have a duty of care to protect the most vulnerable members under their supervision - whether that be young supporters or youth team players.

He said it would be extremely hard for young players to speak out against their revered coaches, who guided their future careers.

"We're victims of a terrible, horrendous thing that happened in the early 80s and 90s", Woodward said after leaving a meeting with the English Football Association on Thursday.

Ackley, who played under Bennell at amateur youth level and testified against him on counts of sexual abuse, said: 'It was a dirty little subject that people wanted to get brushed under the carpet.

Hampshire Police said its detectives are investigating non-recent child abuse "within the football community".

Steve Walters, who also played for Crewe Alexandra whilst Bennell was coaching there, said: "It has been a massive relief to talk about this".

"Should anyone have information which can assist with these or other allegations we would urge them to contact the relevant authorities".

Bennell was jailed in 1998 for nine years and also served a four-year sentence in the United States for child sex offences.

Former Liverpool and Tottenham player Mr Stewart waived his anonymity this week to say he had been abused as a boy by a different unnamed coach.

Police on Friday said an investigation was underway after the publicity generated by former players sharing their stories had of abuse prompted other potential victims to come forward.

The charity pointed to statistics showing that men and boys are five times less likely to report abuse than girls.