Football child sex abuse claims: What has happened so far?

Football child sex abuse scandal one of FA's biggest crises - Greg Clarke

Football continues to be beset by allegations of historical child abuse.

According to police, 155 potential suspects have now been identified and 148 clubs spanning all tiers of the game have been "impacted".

On 21 December, the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) said there were 429 victims, 98% of whom were male with their ages ranging from four to 20 at the time of the alleged abuse.

In London alone, a Metropolitan police investigation has received 106 allegations against 30 clubs - four of which are in the Premier League.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), the UK's leading children's charity, says it has received more than 1,700 calls to a dedicated football abuse hotline set up just four weeks ago.

The Football Association plans to conduct an internal review to determine whether it could and should have done more, while FA chairman Greg Clarke says the crisis is the biggest facing the organisation that he can remember.

The Scottish FA has also launched its own inquiry into alleged abuse.

How did the news emerge?

On 16 November, former Crewe, Bury and Sheffield United player Andy Woodward, 43, waived his right to anonymity and told the Guardian he was sexually abused as a youth player.

Since he has spoken out, several other footballers - including former England and Tottenham midfielder Paul Stewart and ex-Manchester City striker David White - have told their stories publicly.

Woodward has also joined with another former Crewe player, Steve Walters, and ex-Manchester City youth player Chris Unsworth to launch an independent trust that will "fight for justice" and support victims.

The Offside Trust is hoping donations from the FA, the English Football League, Premier League, Professional Footballers' Association and commercial organisations that profit from the game will help fund its work.

The four players to speak publicly have each waived their right to anonymity as sex abuse victims. (Left to right) Paul Stewart, David White, Steve Walters and Andy Woodward have also gone public with their ordeals
Stewart, White, Walters and Woodward (left to right) have waived their right to anonymity

How many clubs are involved?

The latest figures suggest 148 amateur and professional clubs are "impacted". This does not equate to 148 clubs under investigation, but instead refers to the number of clubs referenced when information is submitted.

And that number could be higher still after the Metropolitan police released its own figures on 13 December saying it was looking into allegations relating to 30 clubs or teams.

Chelsea have apologised "profusely" to former footballer Gary Johnson over abuse he suffered in the 1970s and are conducting their own review. However, the club broke no rules by not notifying the Premier League of its confidentiality agreement with Johnson and the nature of his claims.

QPR say they are taking allegations made against former employee Chris Gieler "very seriously" and will "co-operate fully" in any investigation.

Charlton Athletic, Crewe Alexandra and Manchester City have also opened investigations into allegations of historical abuse.

Former Southampton player Matt le Tissier said he had been given a "naked massage" by Bob Higgins, an ex-coach at the centre of sex abuse allegations.

It is also claimed Higgins showered naked with young players while working for the Malta Football Association between 1989 and 1994.

Higgins denies any wrongdoing, while Southampton say they are "fully supporting" Hampshire Police in its investigations.

What is the FA doing?

The FA has begun an internal review - led by Clive Sheldon QC - to determine what officials and clubs knew about potential abuse and when, looking at documents from 1970-2005.

That review will also look at what information the FA was aware of at relevant times and what action was, or should have been, taken.

The BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme has reported that the FA scrapped a major review of its child protection policies in 2003.

Ian Ackley, who says he was abused by a man with links to Manchester City, told the programme his father's calls for better protection "fell on deaf ears" and the FA reacted "dismissively" to worries about abuse in the game.

The FA said it was unable to comment on that claim but has said it is working closely with police and added it "must ensure we do not do anything to interfere with or jeopardise the criminal process".

Crewe director Dario Gradi has been suspended pending an FA investigation that will include looking into claims he "smoothed over" a complaint of sexual assault against ex-Chelsea scout Eddie Heath in the 1970s.

Gradi denies any wrongdoing and says he will help the FA's review.

The Child Protection in Sport Unit, which has assisted the FA since 2000, will also carry out an independent audit into the FA's practices.

On 12 December, former FA chairman David Bernstein told BBC Sport: "If the FA was more modern, more sensitive, more in tune with what was going on in the world, there is more chance that it would have picked this up and have been reported to the chairman at the time.

"I think the more old-fashioned organisations are, the more chance there is of these things being swept under the carpet."

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has written to Damian Collins, chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, to launch a formal inquiry into the abuse scandal.

He said an FA internal review "will not be enough".

Are police investigating?

Twenty-one police forces, including the Metropolitan Police, have opened investigations into the claims.

They are: Devon and Cornwall, Warwickshire, Avon and Somerset, Essex, Norfolk, North Yorkshire, Dorset, Staffordshire, Greater Manchester, North Wales, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire, Cheshire, West Midlands, South Wales, Dyfed-Powys, Scotland Yard, Police Scotland, Northumbria Police, Derbyshire Constabulary and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

What about the rest of the UK?

The Scottish FA announced its own independent inquiry on 13 December, following meetings with police and representatives from PFA Scotland.

The SFA said the review would focus on "processes and procedures" in place both currently and historically in Scottish football.

A former Celtic youth coach, Jim McCafferty, has been arrested by police in Northern Ireland over allegations of sexual offences against children.

The alleged victims are believed to have been in their mid-teens.

McCafferty also worked for other Scottish clubs, including Falkirk and Hibernian, before moving to Northern Ireland about seven years ago.

Hugh Stevenson, a former youth football coach and top-flight assistant referee, has also been accused of a catalogue of child sex offences in Scotland.

Stevenson, who died in 2004, is accused by Pete Haynes, now 50, of sexually abusing him over a three to four-year period from 1979.

Pete Haynes said he hoped victims of abuse would be encouraged to speak out

SFA chief executive Stewart Regan "apologised deeply" to Haynes and said his organisation took full responsibility for child protection failings of the past.

Partick Thistle said they have also identified a historical allegation of abuse made in 1992 against a former club physiotherapist, who is now dead.

The club said Police Scotland and the SFA had been informed.

Three of four police forces in Wales are also investigating allegations of historical child sexual abuse at various football clubs.

How widespread could abuse be?

Edward Smethurst: "It seems entirely inappropriate for such clauses to be used"

Former Tottenham midfielder Stewart has said the sport could be facing a crisis on the scale of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

After his death, former DJ and television presenter Savile was found to have been a prolific sexual predator.

A lawyer representing the Offside Trust told the BBC that "calls and emails are coming in all the time" from people claiming to have been forced to sign non-disclosure agreements with clubs in return for compensation.

Edward Smethurst told BBC sports editor Dan Roan he "could not make specific allegations" but revealed "several" victims had come forward.

Meanwhile former sports minister, Sir Hugh Robertson, now chairman of the British Olympic Association, said it would be "foolish" to presume there had been no similar abuse in Olympic sports.

"We would be naive to think we have got away with it, but we know that our own protection measures right now are absolutely where they need to be."

What about the current situation?

On 22 December, the FA gave an update on safeguarding, saying about 8,000 youth football clubs responsible for more than 60,000 teams have renewed their safeguarding commitment since the sport's child sexual abuse scandal emerged.

However, clubs that have missed the confirmation deadline - under 2% of the total number - have been suspended.

The FA has also written to the parents of academy footballers "to highlight the high standard of safeguarding provisions currently in place at clubs".


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