Justice

The football child sexual abuse scandal: more horrific than Savile?

THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS CONTENT THAT MAY UPSET THE READER

According to the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) around 350 victims have already come forward to report child sexual abuse within British football.

Unprecedented numbers 

The staggering number comes from information supplied by forces across the UK to Operation Hydrant, set up in 2014 to oversee investigations into historic child sexual abuse in the UK.

The NSPC has confirmed that since more than 20 ex-footballers have made allegations of child sexual abuse, with several different clubs, Police forces across the country have received a “significant” number of calls, both reporting further allegations and offering information.

By Thursday 1 December, the NSPC football abuse hotline had received more than 860 calls since being set-up a week prior, and had already received more three times the referrals than in the Jimmy Savile case.

Within the first three days, the NSPC made 60 referrals to the police, compared to 17 for the Savile case, within the same timeframe.

Nationwide allegations

The figures tend to suggest that what is now called the “football child sexual abuse scandal” may actually be even bigger than the Savile case.

In total, 15 different police forces have received allegations of child sexual abuse in multiple sports. But mainly in football which includes well-known football clubs across the country.

Essex, North Yorkshire and North Wales police all confirmed on Wednesday 30 November that they are investigating claims made to them, with Dorset, Staffordshire, Greater Manchester, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire, Cheshire, Northumbria, Scotland Yard and Police Scotland already investigating allegations of abuse.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the NPCC lead for child protection, said that the actual figures are “indicative only” as investigations were only starting.

He said:

We are working closely with the Football Association to ensure that the response to this significant and growing number of victims, at all levels of football, is coordinated effectively.

We continue to encourage those who have been the victim of child sexual abuse to report it, regardless of how long ago the abuse may have taken place.

When allegations are reported it enables police to assess whether there are current safeguarding risks and to ensure that appropriate action is taken to prevent children being abused today.

No cover-up?

Earlier this week, Martin Glenn, the Football Association’s Chief Executive, had promised to punish football clubs that haven’t dealt with child sexual abuse allegations when they were made aware of them.

Glenn said:

We have clear rules in the game and if there’s any evidence of a breach of those – and hushing up would be one – subject to due process, the police need to be at the right place in this. When it’s our turn to apply the rules we absolutely will, regardless of size of club.

Glenn also believes that there wasn’t any attempt to cover-up the abuse allegations from the FA or British football clubs. But as former Chelsea footballer Gary Johnson claims that Chelsea paid him £50,000 to keep it quiet, this may well not be the case.

Paying for silence?

In an interview for The Daily Mirror, Johnson said that the club paid him £50,000 after he claimed he was sexually abused by former Chief Scout Eddie Heath in the 1970’s.

According to The Mirror, Johnson signed a confidentiality agreement in 2015, and accepted £50,000 from the club.

Chelsea FC denies any wrongdoing and do not accept the blame. But they have decided to appoint a law firm to investigate a ‘former employee’.

Jonson, 57, joined the club when he was 11 and claims to have been groomed and sexually abused by Heath, who is now dead, from the age of 13.

He said once the abuse had begun, Heath would attack him at “every opportunity”, adding:

He would get me naked in bed, try more adventurous things.

During the course of this three to four years, he got me to perform in threesomes with other boys, so I know there are other victims out there – it is now up to them if they come forward.

More allegations

Ex-Southampton footballers Dean Radford and Jamie Webb have also spoken out and described to the BBC what they have endured whilst they were both teenagers.

They made a series of grooming and sexual abuse allegations against a former Southampton FC employee.

The former employee, who can’t be named yet, allegedly used his influences on the two young boys to sexually abuse them.

As a member of the schoolboy development team, Radford said he would stay over in Southampton during weekends away from Bristol where he lived.

Along with another young player, he said he was made to “snuggle up” with another club employee on a couch.

Radford said:

It was very odd for me because this was the first experience I’d had of that sort of closeness and whatever else you want to call it.

The reasons he gave were that we needed to trust him, he needed to be like a second father to us – if we trusted him, and it worked both ways, then the chances were there that we could become a professional footballer.

He also described a sexual assault that took place after he had a back injury and needed to lie down for treatment.

Webb, who joined the club when he was 13, described how boys were groomed and sexually abused.

He said that a “club employee” forced him to send “love letters” before describing the first sexual assault he was the victim of:

I recall clearly he tried to move down and put his hand in between my shorts and my tracksuit that I was wearing and I just blocked him.

But Radford also claims that the club must have known as there were rumours of child sexual abuse, but officials preferred to bury their heads in the sand and do nothing.

The FA has begun an internal investigation.

More horrific than the Jimmy Savile scandal?

This scandal could become even more horrific than the Savile one, regardless of whether we know how many children were abused or not. It is, however, the same culture of silence that has pushed young footballer in the hands of sexual predators and paedophiles.

Like with the Savile scandal, within days’ hundreds of calls have been received by the charity the NSPCC, and police forces across the country have started investigations on historic sex-child abuse up and down the country.

According to the alleged victims, institutions – in this case football clubs – have failed to protect them, and then ignored their own shortcomings.

Like the Savile scandal, children have had their lives shattered by men that allegedly used their influence to assault and rape them.

Both scandals have similarities, but the football child sexual abuse scandal may turn out to be even bigger, due to the number of perpetrators and victims involved.

Don’t wait to speak out. If you experienced sexual abuse as a young footballer, the NSPCC free helpline can offer you support, 24 hours a day.

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