Crewe Alexandra to launch independent review into abuse claims

Ex-player Andy Woodward had demanded a full investigation be conducted at the club

Crewe Alexandra, stadium

The Alexandra Stadium home of Crewe Alexandra. Picture by Martin Rickett PA Wire/PA Images

Crewe Alexandra has bowed to pressure and said it was launching an independent review into how the football club dealt with historical child abuse allegations.

It comes after several former footballers, including Andy Woodward, claimed they had been abused as children by Barry Bennell, who was a former youth coach at the club.

Speaking to Sky News earlier, Mr Woodward said: "That club need a full investigation for what went on all those years at Crewe Alexandra."

The club have been accused of failing to act despite warnings about Bennell.

Former Crewe board member, Hamilton Smith, told The Guardian that concerns about Bennell were discussed at the in the late 1980s.

Bennell was allowed to stay on but orders were issued that he should not be left alone with boys, Mr Smith said.

Mr Woodward said he was "not surprised" that several police forces had begun to look into allegations of abuse.
Asked whether there may have been a "network" of paedophiles, Mr Woodward replied: "Of course."

He said Bennell was "the master of grooming", adding: "He took control straight away and that control then continued through."

Bennell, who worked for Crewe, Manchester City, Stoke and several junior teams in north-west England and the Midlands, sexually abused young boys across three decades from the 1970s onwards.

Bennell was given a four-year sentence for raping a British boy on a football tour of Florida in 1994 and then a nine-year sentence for 23 offences against six boys in England in 1998.

He was jailed for a third time in 2015 when he pleaded guilty to abusing a boy at a football camp in Macclesfield in 1980.

A Crewe statement said: "Crewe Alexandra Football Club can today announce that it is to launch an independent review of the way the club dealt with historical child abuse allegations.

"The club is determined that a thorough investigation takes place at the earliest opportunity and believes an independent review, to be conducted via the appointment of external legal counsel, is the correct way forward in the circumstances."