Monday 27 March 2017

Former England and Man City star David White says he was sexually abused by Barry Bennel

White played nearly 300 league games for City and was capped once by England
White played nearly 300 league games for City and was capped once by England

Matt Slater

Former England and Manchester City star David White has become the fourth former footballer to go public as a victim of sexual abuse.

White, now 49, made nearly 400 league appearances for City, Leeds and Sheffield United between 1985 and 1998, and earned his single England cap in 1992.

The Manchester-born forward played locally before joining City's youth set-up. It was during this period that he says he met Barry Bennell, a coach and talent scout who sexually abused young boys across three decades from the 1970s onward.

White said in a statement reported by the BBC that he was among those abused by Bennell.

He said: "Given recent press stories I wish to confirm that I was sexually abused by my former football coach Barry Bennell in the late 70s and early 80s - this abuse took place while I was attached to Whitehill FC Junior team based in Manchester."

White added in his statement: "For a number of reasons and for nearly two decades I kept my ordeal secret from my family and friends. While I believe throughout my football career I have come to terms with what happened, I now realise the effects of Bennell's actions were much more far reaching than I knew then."

White's decision to speak out came after Professional Footballers' Association boss Gordon Taylor revealed the number of players to contact the union with similar stories in the last week had reached "double figures".

Taylor was speaking to Press Association Sport after Cheshire Police confirmed 11 individuals have now contacted them as they expand their investigation into a coach's activities over a period of three decades from the 1970s onward.

Police have been re-investigating Bennell after ex-footballer Andy Woodward waived his anonymity from an earlier trial to tell The Guardian last week about his abuse by the convicted paedophile in the 1980s while he was at Crewe.

Woodward's harrowing account prompted another former Crewe player, Steve Walters, to tell The Guardian about his alleged abuse by Bennell on Tuesday, before former Tottenham and Liverpool star Paul Stewart told the Daily Mirror about his treatment by a different youth coach in the 1970s.

White said: "Last year I made the decision to gather my thoughts, reflect on my own experience, and tell my life story in my own words."

His story will be detailed in a book, 'Shades of Blue: The Hidden Torment of a Football Star'.

"I did not set out to write a story about the abuse, but knew I would have to include it," White said.

"In doing so I have come to terms with the fact that Bennell's actions influenced almost every event and relationship in my life.

"The process of writing the book became sometimes painful, always cathartic and incredibly liberating.

"I would like to say that I do not feel brave.

"This is just my story and I am now happy to tell it because despite the profound effects of 1979/80 I feel like one of the lucky ones.

"Circumstances took me away from the abuse before it escalated. I salute Andy Woodward, Steve Walters, and Paul Stewart for so bravely revealing their personal tragedies.

"The physical abuse they and others suffered was certainly more extreme and prolonged than my ordeal, and I cannot be sure that I would have their courage."

PFA chief Taylor had earlier said: "Because of Woodward's bravery many other ex-players and apprentices are now contacting us - it is double figures now - and that is a timely warning for everybody in football about our duty of care to these youngsters.

"I want all players, even those who didn't make the grade, to feel that the PFA is a safe haven of support for them. We will help with counselling, treatment, whatever they need."

The 71-year-old union boss, who played professional football from 1962 to 1980, said he had heard rumours of inappropriate behaviour by some coaches as a player. The PFA tried to investigate them through its education department, and visited apprentices at clubs, but could not get anybody to speak on the record.

Taylor said that only changed in the mid-1990s when Bennell's conviction for raping a British boy at a football camp in the United States came to light. Prior to that, Bennell had been a successful coach and talent scout who worked with Crewe, Manchester City, Stoke and several junior clubs in the north west and midlands.

Following his release in the US, Bennell was convicted at Chester Crown Court of 23 offences against six boys, aged from nine to 15, and was sentenced to nine years in jail. He was given a third sentence in 2015 when he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing another boy at a camp in Macclesfield in 1980.

Detective Inspector Sarah Hall of Cheshire Police's public protection unit said: "We have been made aware of a number of people who have come forward wishing to speak to the police."

Hall added that the police were making contact with these individuals, no arrests have been made and no one else is under investigation. She also urged anybody else who has been a victim, "no matter how long ago", to contact police on 101.

Taylor issued the same call, explaining that the PFA's head of player welfare Michael Bennett set up a confidential 24-hour helpline in 2014 and the union has been funding the Sporting Chance clinic to provide independent advice and counselling.

Woodward, who was abused by Bennell when he joined Crewe's academy at the age of 11 and testified against him in 1998, told Press Association Sport the coach had "two or three favourites in every team and operated for more than 20 years".

Since his interview with The Guardian, Woodward said he has been contacted by several former players who have thanked him for speaking out and shared their own stories about Bennell.

One of those was Walters, who was a year ahead of Woodward in Crewe's youth set-up but was allegedly abused by Bennell from the age of 12 until 14 - something he has kept secret until now.

Crewe's long-standing chairman John Bowler issued a statement on the club website on Tuesday to say an internal investigation has been launched.

There are fears, however, that the scandal goes far beyond Crewe, a small club with a proud tradition of developing football talent.

Stewart, now 52, told the Daily Mirror he was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a different coach who threatened to kill his family if he spoke out.

"The mental scars led me into other problems with drink and drugs. I know now it was a grooming process. The level of abuse got worse and worse," said Stewart, who also had stints with Blackpool, Manchester City and Sunderland, as well as winning three England caps.

Stewart added that Woodward's revelations had "brought a lot of issues up for me" and said he believes his abuser also attacked other young players.

Press Association

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