Football abuse claims extend to 98 clubs

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There are now 83 potential suspects and 98 clubs involved in the inquiry into child abuse in football, police chiefs have said.

The investigations span all tiers of football, "from premier clubs through to amateur", the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) said.

Police forces across the country are continuing to receive calls, it added.

Of the identified victims, 98% were male, and the age at the time of abuse was between seven and 20, police said.

A total of 639 referrals had been received from the helpline set up by the children's charity the NSPCC, and directly from police forces.

The information is being passed to Operation Hydrant - which oversees the investigation of allegations of "non-recent" child sex abuse within institutions - which collates it and shares it across forces.

The NPCC's lead for child protection said the allegations were "being swiftly acted upon" by police.

Although 98 football clubs had been "referenced", not all were necessarily under investigation, the police said.

And it said the number of victims, previously reported to be 350, continued to apply until all the referrals had been analysed and processed.

Gloucestershire Constabulary has become the latest police force to confirm it is investigating claims, saying "some allegations of non-recent sexual abuse" had been received.

More than 20 other forces have launched similar inquiries, including the Met, South Wales, Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Hampshire, Police Scotland and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

'No complacency'

Meanwhile, Premier League boss Richard Scudamore has written to the parents of more than 3,000 players in the league's youth system to reassure them their children are being protected.

In the letter, which was sent on Wednesday to the parents of children aged eight to 18, Mr Scudamore said the league had been "very concerned" by the allegations of historical sexual abuse at professional football clubs.

"The victims and survivors have been extremely brave to come forward and have our sympathy and support," he wrote.

"Given the volume of media coverage these disturbing stories understandably continue to generate, it is important that you... are made aware of the current standards and provisions in place to keep your children safe."

Mr Scudamore went on to outline the Premier League's various safeguarding measures.

He added: "There is no complacency - the Premier League's own safeguarding team and independent monitors visit each club regularly throughout every season to assess the quality of their work and guide them on any developments that could be made."

Three weeks ago, ex-Crewe defender Andy Woodward waived his right to anonymity to say he had been a victim of sexual abuse as a young footballer.

Since then, more than 20 former footballers - including ex-youth players, trainees and professionals - have come forward with allegations of historical abuse in football.

Governing body the Football Association has announced an internal review.

A leading civil rights lawyer has backed calls for an inquiry into child abuse in Scottish football.

Raju Bhatt, who sat on the independent panel into the Hillsborough disaster, said failure to do so would be a betrayal of the victims.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already rejected calls for a current inquiry into the abuse of children in care to be widened, saying it should be down to the police to probe football abuse claims.

Children's charity the NSPCC said the "shocking" numbers had revealed the "deeply disturbing extent of abuse" in football.

It said its football hotline, launched with the support of the FA, had seen a "staggering surge" in calls in its first week.

The hotline set up by the NSPCC is available 24 hours a day on 0800 0232642.

Police forces investigating allegations:

  • North Wales
  • North Yorkshire
  • Dorset
  • Staffordshire
  • Greater Manchester
  • Cambridgeshire
  • Hampshire
  • Cheshire
  • Northumbria
  • Metropolitan
  • Police Scotland
  • Avon and Somerset
  • Essex
  • Norfolk
  • Derbyshire
  • Warwickshire
  • Devon and Cornwall
  • South Wales
  • Dyfed-Powys
  • West Midlands
  • PSNI
  • Gloucestershire

Kent Police said it has received reports of "non-recent child abuse within the football community" in Kent, which it is "currently reviewing".

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