Four police forces investigate football sexual abuse claims

Officers are contacting individuals who have come forward with claims

ball, football

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

At least four police forces are now looking into allegations of historical sexual abuse in football.

Cheshire Police said claims had been made against "more than one individual" and it was receiving a growing number of disclosures, some via the NSPCC.

Officers are contacting individuals who have come forward with claims.

Hampshire Police released a statement saying it was "investigating allegations of non-recent child abuse within the football community".

Northumbria Police is investigating a claim that a former Newcastle United player was abused while in the club's youth training scheme.

And the Metropolitan Police said it will assess information it received relating to non-recent alleged sexual abuse in football clubs in London.

The national inquiry into child sexual abuse said it was closely monitoring the allegations and "its terms of reference are broad enough to include failures by sports clubs in due course".

Former Tottenham and England midfielder Paul Stewart told Sky News he was convinced he had to put up with sexual abuse as a young boy if he wanted to achieve his dream of becoming a pro.

The 52-year-old revealed this week he had been assaulted by a coach for four years between the ages of 11 and 15.

Speaking to Sky News, he revealed his attacker threatened to kill his parents and two brothers if he spoke about the abuse.

He said: "I knew it wasn't right, and it's such a long time ago to remember everything and obviously I'm struggling now to remember everything that happened.

"But from then on he systematically groomed me, and befriended my parents with a view to eventually the abuse getting worse and worse and him manoeuvring his way to see me every day almost.

"When you're young and you want to become a footballer, which is all I ever wanted to do, and you are told that these are the things you need to do, and that if you say anything (the abuser) will kill your parents and your two brothers, then it's very difficult not to believe at that age that that will be carried through.

"That's when it becomes difficult because they ingratiate themselves to your family, whilst behind the scenes they are abusing you sexually."

Mr Stewart, who also played for Liverpool, Blackpool and Manchester City, said he knew of two others who were abused by the same coach.

And he said the impact of the abuse has had a lasting effect on his life.

He said: "I got into drugs and became addicted to drugs, I turned to drink on many occasions, and I'd been unable to show any sort of emotion to my children, to my wife, in the form of saying 'I love you' or putting my arms around them.

"It's been very difficult over the 41 years, but they seem to have accepted that's Dad and that's the way Dad is. I feel so guilty for them having to suffer and endure my problems over the years that we've been together."

It comes as a number of former players or youth trainees have come forward to report they were the victims of sexual abuse.

Andy Woodward, Steve Walters and David White have said they were assaulted by former youth coach and scout Barry Bennell, who was jailed on three separate occasions for abusing young boys.

England captain Wayne Rooney has urged players who have been sexually abused to call a new helpline so they no longer "suffer in silence".

Praising the bravery of those who have come forward, he said: "It's awful that some of my colleagues have suffered this way while playing the sport that I and they love.

"Andy (Woodward) has been really brave to come forward and I would encourage anyone who has or is suffering from abuse to call the NSPCC's new football helpline."

In the first two hours after the NSPCC helpline was set up, more than 50 calls were received.

On Friday, two more men spoke about the abuse they suffered at the hands of Bennell while playing for youth teams in the North West.

Chris Unsworth, 44, said he was raped "between 50 and 100 times" by the coach while a youth player at Manchester City and then Crewe when he was about 12.

He told the BBC: "I knew where I wanted to get and I thought this was obviously what I had to go through.
"I think members of the club, they knew what was going on, maybe just swept it under the carpet ... senior players, senior management."

Jason Dunford also waived his right to anonymity and said he was abused by Bennell at a Butlins holiday camp.

He said the coach attempted to touch him while he was in bed, and said that Bennell subjected him to mind games after he told him to "get off", eventually driving him out of the game.

He told the BBC: "That stare was one I can never, ever forget. From that day on I knew my life was going to be very, very difficult with that guy.

"I had a dream of being a footballer, every child who has a dream should be able to try and achieve that dream without being the victim of sexual abuse or being around sexual predators."

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.