LONDON, United Kingdom, Jan 18 – The number of football clubs who have been brought up in the historic sex abuse inquiry which has rocked the sport has risen by 100 in the past month to 248 in figures released on Wednesday.
The clubs range from Premier League to amateur level and the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) are at pains to point out that does not mean they are under investigation but have been ‘referenced when information is submitted’.
Last month the NPCC revealed that four of the clubs were from the Premier League although none were named.
The number of alleged victims stands at 526 with the youngest aged four and 97% of them are male — there are 184 potential suspects who have been identified.
Not all the alleged victims or perpetrators come from football with 10 other sports implicated including rugby, gymnastics, the martial arts and athletics.
– ‘Listen and treat all reports sensitively’ –
Chief Constable Simon Bailey, National Police Chiefs’ Council leader for Child Protection, said the wave of allegations that had been made in the initial stages were slowing down but appealed for anyone who had yet to come forward to do so.
“Operation Hydrant (the historic sex abuse enquiry hub encompassing all walks of life) is beginning to see a decrease in the number of referrals being received via the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) helpline and directly to forces relating to allegations of abuse within football, and other sports,” he said in a statement.
“Allegations of non-recent child sexual abuse are complex, and often require specialist skills and knowledge, and can take time to progress.
“However, all allegations and information received by police forces across the country are being acted upon.
“We continue to urge anyone who may have been a victim of child sexual abuse to report it, regardless of how long ago the abuse may have taken place.
“We will listen and treat all reports sensitively and seriously. Anyone with any information regarding child sexual abuse is also urged to come forward.”
The scandal blew up in November when Andy Woodward went public over the abuse he had suffered at the hands of a convicted child molester at Crewe Alexandra.
Several ex-professional players have since gone public with several coming from Chelsea — in an era well before present owner Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich bought the club — claiming to have been abused by scout Eddie Heath in the 1970’s.
One of them, Gary Johnson, received compensation of £50,000 ($63,850, 59,230 euros) in 2015 from the present regime but with a gagging order as part of the deal.
He subsequently broke the order to reveal his story and told the BBC in an interview he will demand more in the way of compensation because the abuse had “taken away his childhood.”
Heath, who had similar allegations levelled at him from former youth players at another London club Charlton Athletic where he went after he was sacked by Chelsea in 1979 although not for sexual impropriety, cannot defend himself as he died in 1983 aged 54.
Chelsea have launched an internal investigation over the slew of allegations of historic abuse made by former players.