Football abuse QA- Players in double figures

Last updated : 24 November 2016



That number looks set to rise as Cheshire Police and the Professional Footballers' Association say they have been contacted by several other players, all inspired to speak out by former Crewe defender Andy Woodward's interview with the Guardian last week.

Here, football.co.uk explains the background to this developing story and signposts where it may go next.

What did Woodward tell the Guardian?

Now 43, Woodward told the newspaper he was sexually abused as a boy in the 1980s by a former coach and scout called Barry Bennell, who was working with Crewe at the time, but also had links with Manchester City, Stoke and junior teams in the area

Woodward was one of six men who testified against Bennell in 1998, when the paedophile was given a six-year sentence for 23 offences

Last week, however, was the first time he talked about this publicly.

So if Bennell was dealt with by the courts, why are we talking about this again?

It is true that Bennell, now 62, was convicted in 1998

In fact, he had already served a four-year sentence for raping a British boy on a football tour in Florida and was given a third sentence last year when he pleaded guilty to a 1980 offence against a boy at a football camp in Macclesfield

But Woodward's interview has prompted more players to speak out, including former Liverpool, Tottenham and England star Paul Stewart, who revealed he was abused by a different coach in north-west England and believes others were, too.

How bad could this get?

The PFA has said the number of players to have contacted them in recent days with similar stories to Woodward's is in "double figures", while Cheshire Police said it was six on Monday and 11 by Wednesday

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children opened a new dedicated helpline for footballers today and the charity told Press Association Sport that it had received more than 50 calls by 10am.

Why are we only hearing about this now?

Good question, and one that everybody involved in the game, including the media, should ask themselves

Channel 4 reported Bennell's activities, which had been the subject of rumour for years, in a Dispatches documentary in 1997 but his court case a year later received little attention

It seems it was hoped that he was a horrible but exceptional case: Woodward now believes he could have been "football's Jimmy Savile".

Was there any reaction to Bennell's conviction from the football authorities?

Little in terms of public announcements - and Crewe barely said a word about their failure to safeguard youngsters - but moves were made to improve criminal checks on coaches and better guidelines on behaviour have been introduced

But as shadow sports minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan points out "simply relying on a criminal record check is not enough...we need the FA, government, police, schools and charities to work together to ensure any historic claims are fully investigated but also ensure our young players have a safe and confidential way of reporting incidents".

Where is this heading?

At the moment, it feels like the dam is cracking and we are waiting for the deluge

White is publishing a book and more players are likely to come forward with their own long-buried stories

Woodward is talking to the FA today about what steps the governing body can and should take to help victims and make sure its current child protection measures are robust, while the police are effectively starting their inquiries into Bennell all over again

Crewe have said they are conducting their own internal investigation but Manchester City and Stoke are still to comment: now would be a good time for all concerned to acknowledge past mistakes, make sure all wrongdoers have been held to account and help with the healing process.

Source : PA

Source: PA