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Police identify dozens of potential suspects in football child sex abuse probe

Dozens of potential suspects have been identified in connection with historical child sex abuse allegations in football, police have revealed.

Ninety-eight clubs spanning all tiers of the game have been "impacted", according to figures released by the National Police Chiefs' Council.

The NPCC said 98% of those identified as victims are male and t he age range for potential victims at the time of alleged abuse spans from as young as seven to 20.

Many forces across the country continue to receive an increased number of calls from victims and people offering information, the NPCC said.

A total of 639 referrals from a National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) helpline and directly from police forces have been received by Operation Hydrant, a national co-ordination hub.

The NPCC said analysis o f information received by Operation Hydrant is ongoing, "with processes to determine if the referral relates to a victim or a witness and whether the information received is new or a duplication of information already received".

It added that the figure does not equate to the number of victims and an "indicative" figure of 350 previously reported continues to apply.

Other figures released showed that 83 potential suspects have been identified and 98 football clubs have been "impacted".

This does not equate to 98 football clubs under investigation but refers to the number of clubs referenced when information is submitted, the NPCC said, adding: " The figure spans all tiers of football, from premier clubs through to amateur."

NPCC lead for child protection Simon Bailey said: "Allegations received by police forces across the country are being swiftly acted upon.

"We are ensuring an efficient and effective service-wide approach to investigating allegations, removing the potential for duplication and enabling the timely and effective sharing of intelligence and information between forces.

"We are also liaising closely with the Football Association to ensure all relevant information they hold is shared to inform investigations moving forward.

"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.

"As the number of calls being received across the service is higher than usual, it may take longer than normal for an officer from a local force to make contact to follow up from the initial call.

"Please be assured that the information provided will be taken seriously and acted upon."

An NSPCC spokesman said: "These shocking numbers now identified by police reveal the deeply disturbing extent of abuse that has been going on within football.

"Our football hotline, launched with the support of the FA, saw a staggering surge in calls in its first week and anyone who wants to contact us can continue to do so in confidence, with the knowledge they will be listened to and supported."

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