Greater Manchester youth football sex abuse investigation starts

Andy Woodward
Image caption Andy Woodward spoke out about abuse he suffered as a young footballer

An investigation has been launched into historical sexual abuse in the youth football system in Greater Manchester.

Greater Manchester Police said the force had taken a "number of calls" alleging child sex abuse in the youth system following recent media coverage.

The force said they have had "more than ten" calls connected to "a number of clubs" in the city.

It follows ex-youth football coach Barry Bennell, at the centre of a sex abuse scandal, being taken to hospital.

The convicted sex offender, 62, was found unconscious at an address in Knebworth Park, Stevenage, on Friday, police said.

Assistant Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) Debbie Ford said: "We have now launched an investigation and our specially trained officers are supporting those who have come forward so far.

"We are co-ordinating our investigation with forces nationally and with Operation Hydrant, the national co-ordination hub for historical child abuse investigations concerning persons of public prominence."

Fifth force

A NSPCC hotline was set up after footballers including ex-Crewe players Andy Woodward, Steve Walters and youngster Chris Unsworth and former Manchester City star David White and youth player Jason Dunford all spoke out about sexual abuse they suffered as children at the hands of coaches.

Ex-Crewe player Woodward, 43, was the first player to speak out on 16 November about his abuse by former Crewe coach and youth football scout Bennell.

Crewe have begun their own independent review into the allegations and the Football Association has announced an internal review into the abuse claims.

Bennell, who also worked for Manchester City, Stoke and junior teams in north-west England and the Midlands, was given a four-year sentence for raping a British boy on a football tour of Florida in 1994 and a nine-year sentence in 1998 for 23 offences against six boys in England.

He was jailed for a third time in 2015 after admitting abusing a boy at a 1980 football camp in Macclesfield.

GMP is the fifth force to launch an investigation into allegations of historical child sex abuse after Hampshire, Cheshire, Northumbria and Metropolitan forces opened cases.

Operation Hydrant, which oversees the investigation of allegations of historical child sex abuse within institutions or by people of public prominence, is trying to work out the scale of the alleged abuse.

It has been in touch with all police forces in England and Wales asking them to forward details of allegations they have received following the recent publicity.

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