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NSPCC launches helpline for footballer victims of sexual abuse
24 Nov 2016

<b><i>Ex-officer Andy Woodward: <br>Abuse in football 'potentially <br>worse than Savile'<b><i>
Ex-officer Andy Woodward:
Abuse in football 'potentially
worse than Savile'
An appeal helpline, set up in the wake of a former police officer speaking out about the sexual abuse he endured while a boy footballer, received more than 50 calls within its first two hours.

The NSPCC has now opened a dedicated 24-hour hotline for footballers with the support of the Football Association (FA).

The children's charity, which said it expected "many more" to come forward, admitted boys are more than five times less likely to speak up about sexual abuse than girls.

The dramatic events come after former Crewe Alexandra academy player Andy Woodward – who served as a police constable with Lancashire Constabulary for 12 years after his retirement from football – broke his silence last week about his abuse by the club's former coach and youth football scout Barry Bennell.

Cheshire Constabulary said 11 people had since come forward, including fellow ex-Crewe player Steve Walters, 44, who says he was also a victim of Bennell.

Mr Woodward has since said the historical abuse in football in the 1980s and 1990s could be "potentially worse" than the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Fears of a suspected paedophile ring are growing as former Manchester City star David White – who scored the club's first goal in the Premier League – became the fourth ex-player in a week to waive his right to anonymity, and the third to name the same man as his abuser.

He has written a book detailing the abuse he says he suffered at the hands of convicted paedophile Bennell.

Ex-England footballer Paul Stewart claims "hundreds" of children may have been sexually abused by figures in the game.

The ex-Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool player, says he was abused by an unnamed coach for four years as a child – up to the age of 15.

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

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch said the former players had shown "incredible bravery" to speak about the abuse while Shadow sports minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan has warned this could "seriously damage the reputation of football" in the UK.

In a statement released prior to White's announcement on Wednesday (November 23), the FA's head of equality and safeguarding, Sue Ravenlaw, said: "The courage and dignity being shown by Andy Woodward, Steve Walters and Paul Stewart is immense.

"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."

NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless said there must be "no hiding place" for abuse, adding: "There may be many others who suffered through such horrors as young players but have never come forward.

"As this week's revelations have been 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," he added.

"We welcome the FA's commitment to helping those in the game get the help and support they need."

FACETFILE ON BARRY BENNELL

For more than a decade Barry Bennell was one of the most respected talent spotters in the game – but he used his position in football as a front for a perversion the scale of which is claimed could be on a par with the Savile scandal.

The 62-year-old coached and scouted junior players during a career that saw him employed by clubs such as Stoke City, Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra.

He would travel around the North West and the Midlands, looking for boys aged nine to 14 to play in junior football teams.

He would then invite boys to stay in his home or take them on football tours – but in 1992 he was sacked by Crewe for reasons that have never been made public.

Bennell – who reportedly worked as a residential care worker in a Derbyshire children's home in the 1970s – went on to work in the US, where he earned more on-field acclaim.

But two years into his Stateside career he was arrested in Florida and served a four-year sentence for offences against a boy during a football tour.

US authorities described him as having "almost an insatiable appetite" for young boys.

After being deported he pleaded guilty to 23 specimen charges – dating from 1978 to 1992 – at Chester Crown Court and was jailed for nine years. Another 22 offences were left on file.

At his sentencing, Judge Huw Daniel said: "You are a paedophile, that is not in doubt."

In May last year, he was sentenced to two years in prison for sexual offences committed against a 12-year-old boy in 1980. During the court case he described himself as a "monster".

He is currently out on licence and is permanently suspended from football.



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