Britain's NSPCC football abuse hotline receives 860 calls in its first week

It is more than three times the amount at the same stage of the Jimmy Savile inquiry

Football

Image: Mike Egerton EMPICS Sport

A dedicated hotline set up in response to allegations of widespread child sexual abuse in football has received 860 calls in its first week.

The NSPCC says the service, established in co-operation with the Football Association, has dealt with a "unprecedented" number of calls.

In the first three days 60 calls were referred to police of children's services, more than three times the amount at the same stage of the Jimmy Savile inquiry.

The line was established after former Crewe Alexandra player Andy Woodward revealed he had been abused, and a series of former players also waived their anonymity to speak publicly about their experiences of sexual assault in youth football.

"The number of high-profile footballers bravely speaking out about their ordeal has rightly caught the attention of the entire country," said NSPCC chief executive, Peter Wanless.

"We have had a staggering surge in calls to our football hotline which reveals the worrying extent of abuse that had been going on within the sport.

"Anyone who wants to contact us can do so in confidence, with the knowledge they will be listened to and supported. 

"In future, footballers - both young players and former athletes - must have the confidence to open up about sexual abuse and feel able to come forward."

Among the footballers to come forward is Derek Bell, a former Newcastle player who says he was abused by convicted paedophile George Ormond and kept it secret for decades.

"I lived in silence for 20-30 years, I didn't tell anybody," he told Sky News.

"That guy was around me up to 1979 and it was 1998 before I found the courage to come and speak out because I was in a bad way - my mental health, I had all sorts of issues so it took me over 20 years to actually come and speak out."

The Football Association has commissioned an internal review into what actions it took in the past and the conduct of clubs where abuse may have taken place.

Among those under scrutiny is Chelsea, which has asked an external lawyer to examine the circumstances of a compensation payment made to a former youth player who alleged he was abused by former chief scout Eddie Heath, now deceased.

Chelsea have declined to comment on the agreement, understood to have been struck in the last three years, but said all information would be shared with the police.

It is the only abuse complaint the club is dealing with.

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If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article, you can contact 'One in Four', a charity providing support and resources for people who have experienced sexual abuse and violence in Ireland.

  • Call on 01 6624070, Monday – Friday 9.30 to 5.30pm 
  • Email using [email protected]
  • Send a letter to 2 Holles St, Dublin 2, D02 FP40