526 potential victims identified in football child sex abuse inquiry
More than 500 victims and 184 potential suspects have been identified by police investigating football's child sex abuse scandal, latest figures show.
The inquiry involves 248 football clubs, spanning all tiers of the game from the Premier League down to amateur level, said the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC), which is co-ordinating the massive police investigation Operation Hydrant.
Latest figures show the total number of potential victims stands at 526, with 97% of the victims identified as male. Their ages span from 20 to four.
A hotline was set up to report abuse since the scandal broke late last year when a number of high-profile ex-footballers came forward to say they were victims of sexual abuse as youngsters.
Police forces across the UK received an increased number of calls from victims and from people offering information.
Chief Constable Simon Bailey, National Police Chiefs' Council lead for child protection, said: "Operation Hydrant is beginning to see a decrease in the number of referrals being received via the NSPCC helpline and directly to forces relating to allegations of abuse within football, and other sports.
"Allegations of non-recent child sexual abuse are complex and often require specialist skills and knowledge, and can take time to progress.
"However, all allegations and information received by police forces across the country are being acted upon.
"We continue to urge anyone who may have been a victim of child sexual abuse to report it by dialling 101 or contacting the dedicated NSPCC helpline, 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.
"When allegations are reported, it enables police to assess whether there are current safeguarding risks and ensure that appropriate action is being taken to prevent children being abused today."
The NPCC said 22 referrals relate to sports outside football.
These referrals include rugby, gymnastics, martial arts, tennis, wrestling, golf, sailing, athletics, cricket and swimming.
Investigations are being prioritised based on an assessment of immediate risk and harm.
Police said due to the high number of calls received, it may take longer than normal for an officer from a local force to make contact but all information provided will be taken seriously and acted upon.
The Football Association has also begun an independent review, led by Clive Sheldon QC, into its handling of abuse allegations in the years prior to 2005.
Victims or anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 or the NSPCC and FA helpline on 0800 023 2442.