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More alleged victims come forward over 'sex abuse' in football

Published 23/11/2016

Paul Stewart (left) played for clubs including Liverpool and Spurs, and also won three England caps
Paul Stewart (left) played for clubs including Liverpool and Spurs, and also won three England caps

Eleven people have come forward to police in the wake of revelations about sexual abuse in football.

Former footballers David White, Paul Stewart and Andy Woodward have all revealed they were abused by football coaches as children.

Former Liverpool and Tottenham player Stewart waived his anonymity in an interview with The Daily Mirror, after ex-Sheffield United player Woodward revealed that he was abused by coach Barry Bennell at Crewe Alexandra.

Former England and Manchester City star White became the latest footballer to reveal he was also a victim of child sex abuse, by jailed former coach Bennell.

White, 49, told the BBC he was sexually abused by Bennell in the late 70s and early 80s while playing for Whitehill FC Junior team in Manchester.

He said: "Given recent press stories I wish to confirm that I was sexually abused by my former football coach Barry Bennell in the late 70s and early 80s - this abuse took place while I was attached to Whitehill FC Junior team based in Manchester."

The news of potential further cases came as the NSPCC announced it had set up a dedicated helpline for victims of abuse within football, with the support of the Football Association (FA).

Detective Inspector Sarah Hall, of Cheshire Police public protection unit, said: "As of today, Wednesday 23 November, we have now been made aware of a number of people who have come forward wishing to speak to the police.

"At this stage we are in the process of making contact with them, and to date no arrests have been made and no-one else is under investigation."

Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, said it was a "timely warning for everybody in football about our duty of care to these youngsters" and that he wants the union to be a "safe haven".

He admitted that rumours circulated about "inappropriate behaviour" in youth football at the time but there was no proof until Bennell was convicted of raping a British boy at a football camp in Florida in 1994.

Stewart, 52, alleges he was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a man who threatened to kill his family if he spoke out.

He claimed other boys were also abused by the same man.

Stewart told the newspaper: "The mental scars led me into other problems with drink and drugs. I know now it was a grooming process. The level of abuse got worse and worse."

He added that if he was not playing well then the trainer would threaten him with violence as well as sexual abuse.

The claims by the former FA Cup winner follow Woodward's interview with The Guardian in which he said he suffered at the hands of Bennell between the ages of 11 and 15.

Bennell was jailed for nine years in 1998 after pleading guilty to sexual offences.

In his interview, Woodward said: "My life has been ruined until the age of 43, but how many others are there?

"I'm talking about hundreds of children who Barry Bennell cherry-picked for various football teams and who now, as adults, might still be living with that awful fear."

Sue Ravenlaw, head of equality and safeguarding at the Football Association, said she applauded Woodward's courage after he spoke out.

She added that the FA takes all matters of safeguarding and child protection seriously and encouraged anyone who may have experienced or is experiencing abuse in football to contact the NSPCC or Childline.

The NSPCC's new free hotline is available 24 hours a day on 0800 023 2642.

Chief executive Peter Wanless said: "There must be no hiding place for sexual abuse in our national game and there may be many others who suffered through such horrors as young players but have never come forward.

"As this week's revelations have laid bare, people must be able to speak out and get the help they need, and we know that can often be more difficult for men and boys."

Ms Ravenlaw praised the "courage and dignity" shown by the men who came forward, adding: "We join Andy, the police and others in the continued efforts to encourage more victims and survivors to come forward.

"We urge people to utilise this specific NSPCC helpline to gain support and advice."

Former FA chief executive Mark Palios told BBC Radio Four's Today programme: "It would be naive, probably, to suggest, that things like this hadn't gone on within the game.

"It's an issue like racism, you can't be complacent that you have actually dealt with it, but I'm pretty certain the position today is far better than it was 20 to 30 years ago when it was pretty much unregulated."

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