England

Former footballer Andy Woodward tells of sexual abuse

  • 17 November 2016
  • From the section England
Media captionAndy Woodward speaks about being sexually abused by his coach

A former footballer who was sexually abused by a coach when he was a junior player has said it "wrecked" his life.

Andy Woodward - who played for Bury and Sheffield United - was abused while at Crewe Alexandra from the age of 11-15.

His abuser, Barry Bennell, was sentenced to nine years in prison in 1998 after admitting sexual offences against six boys.

Mr Woodward spoke out after waiving anonymity offered to sex abuse victims.

The 43-year-old told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme the abuse had a "catastrophic" impact on his life.

Panic attacks

He struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts in the years following Bennell's conviction and suffered severe panic attacks - including during a match for Bury in which he had to be substituted.

Mr Woodward - who explained it had taken "30 years" to speak openly about the abuse - said he suffered a lack of support from Crewe Alexandra when the abuse was first revealed.

"With regards to the sport - there was nothing, it was brushed under the carpet," he said.

"It's in the mentality of football that nothing comes out."

The former defender said he "tried to put it in a box and focus on football, because that was all I'd ever dreamed of".

A spokesperson for Crewe Alexandra said the club did not wish to comment.


Andy Woodward

  • Came to the attention of Barry Bennell, a former scout and youth coach at Crewe Alexandra, as an 11-year-old while playing for Stockport Boys.
  • Joined Crewe Alexandra's youth team, where he was sexually abused by Bennell between the ages of 11 and 15.
  • Played professionally at Crewe Alexandra, before he signed for Bury in 1995.
  • Suffered his first panic attack playing for Bury in November 1999 - days after manager Neil Warnock said he wished to sign him for Sheffield United.
  • As he struggled with the mental effects caused by the abuse, he started just three games for Sheffield United
  • Retired from football in 2002, aged 29.

Barry Bennell, who worked as a football scout and coach at Crewe Alexandra in the 1980s and 90s, was sentenced to nine years in prison in 1998 after admitting 23 specimen charges of sexual offences against six boys, aged nine to 15.

Bennell scouted Mr Woodward, then aged 11, while he was playing for Stockport Boys.

Mr Woodward said that within "three or four weeks" Bennell invited him to stay over at his home.

He was abused over a four-year period and said Bennell threatened him "in a way that [his dream of playing football professionally] was going to be taken from me".

"It was that control, that all I wanted to do was be a footballer."

Mr Woodward believes the nine-year sentence did not do "justice", although at the time of the conviction he said he felt "safer" knowing Bennell was in prison.

'Further victims'

Mr Woodward retired from football in 2002.

After years of therapy he believes he is now "coming through the other side".

Mr Woodward said he wished to raise awareness of his ordeal as he believed there were "further victims" of Bennell who were yet to speak.

He said he was aware of one other former footballer who had come forward since he first spoke to the press.

The Victoria Derbyshire programme is broadcast on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News Channel.