Ex-Newcastle United player tells police he was victim of child abuse

Northumbria Police confirm they have received a report in relation to an allegation of historic sexual offences

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Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

A former Newcastle United player has said he was abused while in the club's youth training scheme, according to reports.

Northumbria Police said: "We have received a report in relation to an allegation of historic sexual offences in Newcastle. We are working closely with, and supporting, the victim and enquiries are ongoing."

It comes after The Guardian reported that the latest alleged victim in the scandal was inspired to come forward by other former footballers who say they were abused by sports coaches and scouts when they were children.

Four former professionals have made their names public, claiming to have been victims - and several others have come forward but their identities remain protected.

Earlier, Andy Woodward, who played for Crewe Alexandra, told Sky News that there are high-profile sports professionals who were abused as children and have yet to seek help.

Manchester City has confirmed it is carrying out its own investigation as the man alleged to have abused Mr Woodward also worked at that club.

As well as Crewe Alexandra and Manchester City, former scout Barry Bennell also worked at Stoke City. He was arrested in 1994.

Mr Woodward's initial interview with The Guardian encouraged more than 10 others to tell the Professional Footballers' Association that they too were abused.

Mr Woodward said to Sky News: "I know that there are more out there, and there is more high-profile people that are sat there thinking 'can I or can't?'

Andy Woodward spoke to Newstalk on Wednesday

"You don't have to be named, you don't have to put yourself on the front of a newspaper, but you do need to get closure.

"But I do know they are out there. I encourage people to pick up the phone and ring and say 'I was a victim'.

"Because, here in the background, I'm trying to do the proper work to get us all the support we deserve.

"The encouragement that I've had from the FA this morning is that we are going to make a difference."

Manchester City said in a statement: "The Club is aware of allegations that Barry Bennell had an association with Manchester City Football Club in the 1980s.

"As a result the Club is currently undertaking a thorough investigation of any past links he might have had with the organisation."

Mr Woodward told The Guardian the abuse he claimed was perpetrated by Bennell had blighted his life.
Bennell worked in the North West and the Midlands, coaching and talent-spotting boys aged nine to 14.

Mr Woodward's testimony prompted former teammate Steve Walters to speak out with his own claims against Bennell.

Mr Woodward added: "Eventually we might be able to get a true understanding of what happened at that football club.

"Me and Steve know, and so do many more, and we will find out and it will come out."

The Professional Footballers' Association said hundreds of former players may have been victims of sexual abuse in the 1980s and 1990s.

Michael Bennett, head of player welfare at the PFA, said the organisation has set up a "triage service" to help players who had been abused by Bennell.

"In regards to the amount of people that have come forward in a short space of time, it makes me feel that this is the tip of the iceberg," Mr Bennett told Sky News.

"From the numbers that have come forward in the last couple of days - I think it's 11 now - I think it could be ... in the hundreds."

Mr Woodward was followed by former Tottenham and England forward Paul Stewart, who on Tuesday told the Daily Mirror that he had been abused for four years by an unnamed coach.

Former Manchester City striker David White was the second former England footballer to speak publicly about sexual abuse claims against Bennell.

Four professional players have spoken out in the last week.

In a statement, Mr White said: "Given recent press stories I wish to confirm that I was sexually abused by my former football coach Barry Bennell in the late 1970s and early 1980s - this abuse took place while I was attached to the Whitehill FC Junior team based in Manchester."

Crewe Alexandra director of football Dario Gradi expressed his sympathy with the victims and said: "The first I knew of Barry Bennell's crimes was when he was arrested in the United States in 1994.

"I knew nothing of his crimes before this time when he was employed by us.

"No one at the football club knew of Bennell's crimes until his arrest in 1994 and his subsequent prosecution in the United Kingdom. The football club also co-operated fully with the authorities in 2003.

In 1998, Bennell received a nine-year sentence after admitting 23 charges of sexual offences, including buggery, against six boys aged nine to 15.

He had been arrested when he was deported following a four-year prison sentence in Florida for raping and indecently assaulting a 13-year-old British boy on a football tour.

Bennell was convicted for a third time for sexual abuse in 2015 and received a two-year sentence. He is reported to have been released on licence.
He has not responded to the latest allegations.

The National Association for People Abused in Childhood said it has recorded a spike in calls from men, who usually make up only 20% of callers to its helplines.

The FA has established a helpline, supported by the NSPCC, but it has ruled out launching an inquiry because a police investigation is already under way.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Karate Schools said it is concerned about the way coaches in youth sport are screened.

Chairman Joe Ellis told Sky News: "What we've seen over the last day or two is the FA, from the professional side of it, but actually I fear that (it's) the grassroots, whether football or martial arts, (and what has come out so far) is the tip of the iceberg."