Child (4) youngest 'victim' in football sex abuse
The age range for potential victims in the UK football child abuse scandal starts at four years old, Britain's National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) has announced.
The scale of the scandal continues to grow as the latest figures from the NPCC show significant increases in the numbers of clubs implicated, referrals, suspects and victims.
According to the information gathered by Operation Hydrant, the UK-wide police investigation into non-recent child sexual abuse, 148 clubs are now involved, with 155 potential suspects and 429 victims, aged between four and 20.
These figures are the result of 819 referrals to Operation Hydrant, with about three-quarters of those coming from the dedicated helpline set up by Football Association and child protection charity NSPCC last month and the rest from police forces.
The numbers show approximate increases of more than 50pc on the last update from the NPCC on December 9, when there were 98 clubs implicated, 83 suspects and 639 referrals.
In a statement on the NPCC website, Chief Constable Simon Bailey said: "Allegations received by police forces across the country are being swiftly acted upon.
"We continue to urge anyone who may have been a victim of child sexual abuse to report it ... regardless of how long ago the abuse may have taken place.
"We will listen and treat all reports sensitively and seriously.
"Anyone with any information regarding child sexual abuse is also urged to come forward."
Mr Bailey added it was important that anybody with information gets in touch with the police in order to ensure there are no current safeguarding risks but acknowledged that the "higher than usual" number of calls is causing delays in doing follow-up interviews.
This issue has been flagged up by a number of the former footballers who have come forward publicly to tell the stories, with some still waiting to give formal statements more than a month later.
The NPCC data covers all tiers of football, from the Premier League to the grass-roots, and 98pc of those identified as victims are male, aged from four to 20.
The NPCC confirmed that other sports have also been mentioned.
The National Police Chiefs' Council says while the "vast majority of referrals relate to football", some have come from other sports.
Investigations are taking place in five organisations.
Police: Eight forces - the Metropolitan Police, Greater Manchester Police, Cheshire Police, Staffordshire Police, Northumbria Police, Hampshire Police, Police Scotland - are examining claims of historic sex abuse in football.
The Football Association has appointed Kate Gallafent QC to lead a review into what clubs knew about crimes committed by youth team coaches and the response of the governing body.
Chelsea have announced that they have retained an external law firm to carry out an investigation concerning an individual employed by the club in the 1970s, who is now deceased.
Crewe Alexandra have also announced they were launching an independent review into how it has dealt with child abuse allegations, having been widely criticised for their initial response.
Manchester City are investigating to see if there are any connections with historical abuse allegations.