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Hundreds come forward in UK football scandal

Friday 2 Dec 2016 5:18 a.m.

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Allegations of child sexual abuse in football in Britain continue to deepen with British police now saying that about 350 victims had come forward to report abuse within soccer clubs and indicated the number was likely to rise.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) charity said that a helpline dedicated to the soccer abuse scandal had received 860 calls in its first week.

The charity's staff had made 60 referrals to police or social services in the first three days - triple the number made in the wake of a similar scheme set up for victims Savile.

"We've had a staggering surge in calls to our football helpline which reveals the worrying extent of abuse that had been going on within the sport," said Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive.

Meanwhile, English soccer's governing body, the Football Association, has launched an internal review into what it admitted could be one the sport's biggest crises, but cast doubt on claims that some clubs had tried to cover-up allegations.

"If the FA have made errors, we will own up to them as must the rest of football if avoidable errors have been made," Martin Glenn, the FA Chief Executive told reporters on Thursday.

"The only way that this gets dealt with is through openness and honesty and everyone exposing what has happened."

On Tuesday, Barry Bennell, 62, who was a talent spotter at Crewe Alexandra and a coach at Manchester City, was charged with eight historical sex offences against a 14-year-old boy. They included indecent assault, inciting a boy to commit an act of gross indecency and assault with intent to commit buggery.

Victims tell similar tales of how they were targeted while they were playing for youth teams and feared speaking out would wreck their boyhood dreams.

Among the former players who waived a legal right to anonymity to tell their stories are former Manchester City player David White, who won an England cap, and another ex-England striker Paul Stewart, who had a successful career at Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool.

"My belief is that there's hundreds," a tearful Stewart told BBC TV last week, saying he believed the scandal would prove to be worse than the Savile revelations.

"The access to the children at sport level is very easy and it's perfect ground for (child abusers) to prey."

The NSPCC has not ruled out suggestions the abuse is still ongoing.

Britons are still reeling from another massive paedophile scandal involving one of their most-loved celebrities, Jimmy Savile, a cigar-chomping BBC television star who abused hundreds of youngsters over six decades.

Savile used his fame to gain access to children and then cow them into silence. His crimes did not come to light until his death aged 84 in 2011.

Reuters

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