Belfast Telegraph

IFA backs helpline as ex-footballers reveal sex abuse by coaches

By Adrian Rutherford

The Irish FA has given its support to a UK-wide helpline set up in the wake of revelations about sexual abuse in football.

It follows claims that "hundreds" of children may have been abused by figures within the game.

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

Mr Stewart, who claims he was abused by a coach for four years as a child, warned the sport could face allegations on the scale of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Yesterday the NSPCC said more than 50 people had rung an abuse helpline within two hours of it being set up. The dedicated hotline for victims of abuse across the UK is being supported by the IFA.

Kevin Doyle, the IFA's safeguarding service delivery manager, said: "We applaud this initiative by the NSPCC. The welfare of children and young people is of paramount importance to the Irish FA.

"Our commitment towards all children and young people involved in football is outlined in our safeguarding policies and procedures which recognise the duty of care everyone involved in football has to protect children and their responsibility to report any concerns relating to child welfare."

Head of NSPCC Northern Ireland Neil Anderson said there must be no hiding place for sexual abuse in football.

"As this week's revelations have shown, 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," he said.

Former Liverpool and Tottenham player Stewart told the BBC he believed "there are hundreds of victims" of sexual abuse who could come forward.

Asked if he feared the allegations football is facing could be as big as the Savile scandal, he told the BBC: "Yes, I do, for sure. I would almost guarantee it as long as the victims are willing to come forward."

Stewart spoke out after ex-Sheffield United player Woodward revealed that he was abused by coach Barry Bennell at Crewe Alexandra. Bennell was jailed for nine years in 1998 after pleading guilty to sexual offences.

Former England and Manchester City star White (49) told the BBC he was sexually abused by Bennell in the late 1970s and early 1980s while playing for Whitehill FC Junior team in Manchester.

Yesterday it was revealed that 11 people have come forward to police.

Belfast Telegraph


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