Friday 19 January 2018

FA finally launches inquiry over child sex abuse scandal

Paedophile soccer coach Barry Bennell Photo: PA
Paedophile soccer coach Barry Bennell Photo: PA

Rob Harris

The English Football Association has finally launched an inquiry into an escalating child sex scandal after an additional 20 players came forward with allegations of abuse.

The FA has now appointed a senior lawyer to assist with its review.

The association took no further action after Barry Bennell, a coach at the centre of the scandal who was linked to Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra, was first convicted in the 1990s in both the US and England for molesting players.

It has taken former victims of Bennell and other coaches to waive their anonymity over the last two weeks to bring a fresh light on abuses they suffered while trying to break into football.

The players' union said more than 20 players had called them with allegations of abuse.

"With the helpline it's a matter whether they wish to come out publicly or remain anonymous," Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor said. "This is centering for the moment on clubs Crewe Alexandra, Blackpool, Manchester City, Stoke, Leeds United and then, in the northeast Newcastle United. It would be naive to think there won't be clubs as well in all areas."

Four police forces across England have opened investigations after being contacted about Bennell and others.

"At this time, with acknowledgement that a wide-ranging inquiry may be required in time, we are working closely with the police to support their lead investigations and must ensure we do not do anything to interfere with or jeopardise the criminal process," the FA said.

Lawyer Kate Gallafent, who has experience working on child protection issues in sports, has been brought in by the FA to look into the abuse allegations and "make recommendations in order to seek to ensure these situations can never be repeated."

Claims have also emerged that clubs in England agreed settlements with abused players in exchange for confidentiality about the cases.

"I find it incredible if clubs have been paying these lads to be quiet," said Taylor.

Irish Independent

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