Police identify 155 potential suspects in football abuse probe

Some 819 referrals have so far been made from police forces and from the NSPCC helpline

Football

Image: John Walton / EMPICS Sport

The number of potential suspects in the child sexual abuse in football investigation has risen to 155, say police.

That is up from 83 on 9 December, according to the National Police Chiefs' Council.

New figures on Operation Hydrant also show the number of potential victims stands at 429, up from 350 earlier this month.

Some 819 referrals have so far been made from police forces and from the NSPCC helpline - at the start of the month there had been 639.

Detectives are sifting through the referrals to see whether any information is duplicated and if it relates to a victim or a witness.

The investigation ballooned after several former professional footballers came forward to say they were abused as youngsters by people working for clubs as coaches or scouts.

Ages of the potential victims range from four to 20. The football clubs impacted has grown from 98 to 148.

However, it does not mean they are under investigation - just that they have been mentioned in the referrals.

The "vast majority" relate to football, but the National Police Chiefs' Council said a number of other sports had also been mentioned.

NPCC lead for child protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey, said: "Allegations received by police forces across the country are being swiftly acted upon...

"We continue to urge anyone who may have been a victim of child sexual abuse to report it by dialling 101, or contacting the dedicated NSPCC helpline, regardless of how long ago the abuse may have taken place."

Last week, former football coach Barry Bennell, 62, was remanded in custody after being charged with five counts of indecent assault on a boy.

The offences he is charged with are said to have happened between 1981 and 1985 when the alleged victim was under the age of 15.