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Police probe claims of historical sex abuse at Northern Ireland football clubs

By Claire Williamson

The PSNI is investigating a number of allegations in to historical child sex abuse linked to football clubs in Northern Ireland.

It is not known what football clubs the allegations are linked to. It was revealed on the BBC Stephen Nolan Show. Child Protection Expert Jim Gamble said he was not surprised at the revelations.

He said: "Why would we be surprised at that?

What we know is where you have brought young people together in the past who have ambition and you put them in proximity with people they admire, people thy want to emulate, you have the perfect storm - if one of those people have a deviant sexual interest in children.

"And we know that whether it's football, swimming no matter what sport or youth organisation it is - there is always the potential.

"It's a good thing that people have got the courage to come forward and engage with the PSNI.

"Anywhere that children come together, where they congregate and are in proximity to people they admire, people will local celebrity they will be easily seduced.

"What we do know from the past it's much more difficult for young men to come forward and talk about it.

"One of the positives to come out of this - is that people listening to the message will come forward and the calls are getting passed to police."

A spokeswoman for the PSNI said: "We have had a very small number of allegations of non-recent child sexual abuse linked to football clubs.

"We work closely with all of the sporting bodies to ensure effective safeguarding is in place."

DUP MP Gregory Campbell has said the allegations must be "rigorously investigated".

He said: “The allegations of sexual abuse linked to football clubs are disturbing and it is vital they are fully investigated in a way that ensures full public confidence.

"Sports clubs, including the many football clubs in Northern Ireland are run largely by volunteers who give of their time freely and provide a very valuable service to the community. It is important that allegations made relating to Northern Ireland are properly and fully investigated so that perpetrators are brought to justice. It is obviously important that clubs have proper processes in place to ensure they are safe places for our young people.

"That full and rigorous investigation must avoid some of the failures of previous investigations, such as that after the Jimmy Savile scandal was uncovered where a significant number of innocent people had their reputations seriously damaged when they were wrongly implicated."

It comes following a wave of allegations after ex-Crewe defender Andy Woodward waived his right to anonymity to say he was a victim of sexual abuse as a young footballer.

The latest police information is that new lines of inquiry are being followed at 55 clubs around the country, with Monday seeing fresh allegations about clubs and an official in Scotland.

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