Friday 9 December 2016

Hotlines flooded with calls telling of sex abuse in English football

Catherine Wylie and Kate Ferguson in Cambridgeshire

Published 30/11/2016 | 02:30

Former Crewe Alexandra coach Barry Bennell. Photo credit: PA/PA Wire
Former Crewe Alexandra coach Barry Bennell. Photo credit: PA/PA Wire

Cambridgeshire Police is the latest force to launch a probe into allegations of historical abuse in English football.

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A hotline set up for sexual abuse victims in football has received more than 250 reports since launching less than a week ago.

It has become the seventh force to confirm it is looking into allegations following claims of sexual abuse by former players, as the FA begins an internal review.

A spokesman for the force said: "We have received multiple historical allegations from the NSPCC of abuse related to football in Cambridgeshire. The inquiries were received [at the weekend] and are being looked into."

The scandal erupted when ex-player Andy Woodward revealed he was repeatedly assaulted by paedophile and former Crewe Alexandra coach Barry Bennell - prompting a string of other footballers to speak out about the abuse they suffered.

Bennell (62) has been taken to hospital after being found unconscious in a Hertfordshire hotel in the wake of the allegations. Last night, it emerged that Bennell has been charged with eight offences of sexual assault against a boy under the age of 14.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it had reviewed a file of evidence from Cheshire Police relating to allegations of non-recent child sexual abuse.

Also yesterday, Eric Bristow, the former darts world champion, has lost his role as a commentator on Sky Sports' darts coverage after causing outrage for suggesting football abuse victims are not "proper men" because they didn't "sort out" their abusers later in life.

Bristow (59) said the alleged victims should have stood up to their abusers.

In a series of messages on Twitter, he said: "Might be a looney but if some football coach was touching me when i was a kid as i got older i would have went back and sorted that poof out."

He later clarified: "Sorry meant paedo not poof".

"Dart players tough guys footballers wimps," he continued. "U got to sought him out when u get older or dont look in the mirror glad i am a dart player proper men," he wrote.

"Trouble is nowadays u cant tell the truth what do u feel out there tweet me. Everybody that works on tv is frightened to say the truth because they are frightened to lose their job, life shouldnt be like that.

"U people replying don't twist what i sent out, i tell the truth if u dont like it tough."

A spokesperson for Sky confirmed yesterday morning Bristow would not be used on the broadcaster's darts coverage again, saying: "He was a contributor to our darts coverage in the past but we will not be using him in the future."

Bristow's comments immediately triggered a huge backlash on social media.

Meanwhile, the Scottish government has also been urged by a Conservative MSP to launch a "focused investigation" into abuse of children in sports clubs.

Mark McDonald, minister for early years, told MSPs it was too early to give an indication of how many calls detailing abuse were received to hotlines in Scotland.

Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton said there had been pleas for the SNP administration to launch a wider inquiry covering areas such as sport as the sector is not included in the current historical abuse inquiry.

The government has already faced criticism that the inquiry - looking into treatment of children who were in residential care, those who had long-term stays in hospital, boarding schools and those under foster care - is too narrow.

"The current inquiry risks not going far enough in helping victims of child abuse," Ms Hamilton said. "I am disappointed that the Scottish government is not going forward with an investigation into the abuse in sports clubs."

Mr McDonald said: "We do take seriously any indications or reports of sexual abuse in sporting bodies and . . . we will continue to monitor the number of calls that are made to the hotline and determine alongside other bodies whether any further action is required in this specific area.

"But that does not affect the remit of the historic abuse inquiry, which has been set by the Deputy First Minister."

Speaking in the Commons, UK Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said the NSPCC helpline had been inundated.

She said: "I understand that at the time of me standing up there had been over 250 reports to the NSPCC helpline, of which 51 are in Cheshire alone.

"I think it is also important though that police have the time and space that they need to carry out proper investigations and inquiries and make sure that they obtain all the evidence.

"We want to see perpetrators brought to justice wherever possible, and we need to make sure the police have time to do that."

Irish Independent

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