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Monday 5 December 2016

Six people contact police after footballer reveals abuse by coach while at Crewe Alexandra

Published 22/11/2016 | 09:26

Football pitch
Football pitch

Six people have come forward to police after a former footballer spoke of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his coach.

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Former Sheffield United player Andy Woodward told how he was abused by coach Barry Bennell while at Crewe Alexandra between the ages of 11 and 15.

Bennell was jailed for nine years in 1998 after pleading guilty to sexual offences.

Acting Detective Sergeant Ben Hilton, of Cheshire Police public protection unit, said: "As of Monday 21 November we have been made aware of six other people who have come forward wishing to speak to the police.

"We are currently in the process of making contact with the six people, and at this stage no-one else is under investigation.

"Cheshire Constabulary takes all reports of sexual offences extremely seriously and has specialist trained officers to provide advice and support."

Sue Ravenlaw, head of equality and safeguarding at the Football Association, said she applauded Woodward's courage after he spoke out in an interview with The Guardian.

She said: "Reading Andy Woodward's story in The Guardian was heartbreaking and we applaud his immense courage in coming forward to speak about the horrific abuse he suffered.

"Barry Bennell remains permanently suspended from football, in line with our procedures.

"The FA takes all matters of safeguarding and child protection seriously and we encourage anyone who may have experienced or is experiencing abuse in football to contact the NSPCC's confidential 24-hour helpline on 0808 800 5000 or Childline for children and young people on 0800 1111."

In his interview with The Guardian, Woodward said: "My life has been ruined until the age of 43, but how many others are there?

"I'm talking about hundreds of children who Barry Bennell cherry-picked for various football teams and who now, as adults, might still be living with that awful fear."

Cheshire Police urged anyone who had been the victim of a sexual offence, no matter how long ago, to contact the force on 101.

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