Andy Woodward calls on victims of alleged sexual abuse to come together and share their stories

He was speaking at the launch of The Offside Trust which aims to support victims of abuse

Andy Woodward

Image: Peter Byrne PA Wire/PA Images

Andy Woodward has called on former footballers who allege that they suffered sexual abuse in the past to come forward and share their stories with people who have endured similar experiences.

Speaking at the launch of The Offside Trust, a body which will "fight for justice" of players who have suffered alleged abuse, Woodward said that sharing experiences with a group is, he feels, the next step in the healing process.

"I think it's key to get groups of ex-footballers together and having our own self-therapy sessions," he said.

"Because when we talk together, we're feeling that relief that we're not on our own. We're not on our own and there are so many others. That's the initial thing that I think would help so many sufferers of this abuse. To talk as a group is the way forward. You can have single therapy but [group sessions] is something in my heart that I think we need to do."

The Offside Trust is asking for donations from the English Football League (EFL), Football Association (FA), Premier League, Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) and commercial organisations that profit from the game.

(left to right) Mark Williams, Andy Woodward, Steve Walters, Jason Dunford and Matt Monaghan at the launch of the Offside Trust at the Midland Hotel in Manchester. Image: Peter Byrne PA Wire/PA Images

Woodward admitted that he knew that there was some level of abuse which existed in the game, but could not have foreseen the level of people who have come forward as a result of his interview with The Guardian.

"I didn't know how many were out there I just knew in my heart that there were several that I knew of that were feeling that hurt that I've felt. The trauma that I have had to suffer. 

"I had no idea there was so many, but it's reached out to so many people. I'm just so thankful that I've done it now. At the time it was harrowing to actually think about putting myself out there. But to actually do it now and the response that's actually happened, it's just helping so many people. That's what this is all for."

Woodward explained that the best way forward now is for players to come together and speak about their experiences.

"The last couple of days we've spoke to a few players and discussed how we're going to move this forward so that we can get the help that we need because we're all still suffering. 

"Initially it's to do just that by getting a support network in place. It's not just our little small group that's here, it's ventured out all over the country. If we can get that help that we need, that's what our objective is really."

You can find out more about the trust by clicking here.