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The Football Association (FA) stepped up its review into historical child abuse yesterday, with more than 20 former players having come forward with allegations and up to seven clubs now connected.
Since former Crewe player Andy Woodward waived his anonymity to speak about his abuse at the hands of youth coach, and serial paedophile, Barry Bennell the scale of the issue has grown by the day.
Yesterday the FA instructed independent leading counsel Kate Gallafent QC to oversee its internal review, assessing “what information the FA was aware of at the relevant times, what clubs were aware of, and what action was or should have been taken.”
Her recommendations will be considered but the FA accept a full, wide-ranging inquiry may yet be necessary.
At the same time as that announcement, Professional Footballers Association chief executive Gordon Taylor provided an update on the allegations received, which he expects to continue rising.
“From that time, of those who became apprentices and senior players, over 20 players have come forward,” said Taylor, who suggested there may be even more victims in the game’s amateur ranks.
Asked to name the clubs that had been connected to allegations thus far, Taylor said: “We’d start at Crewe, go to Man City, Stoke, Blackpool, Newcastle, Leeds. I’m expecting there will be more. I think we have six or seven clubs.
“I can’t believe it’s just going to be in the north-west and north-east. We need to be mindful this could be throughout the country in the same way it’s been in other professions where children are there — in the church, in schools and other areas we are well acquainted with over the past few years.”
Manchester City and Crewe have launched independent investigations while Blackpool, who had not previously been linked with the allegations, said: “The club is yet to receive any information from the PFA or relevant authorities in relation to the ongoing investigations of historic abuse.
“Should any past links with the organisation come to light, the club will provide every assistance it possibly can.”
It is understood that Leeds have received no information on the allegations but should any come to light the club will take them as seriously as possible.
Bennell, who has been named by players including Woodward, Steve Walters, David White, Ian Ackley and, most recently, Anthony Hughes, worked with Crewe, City, Stoke and several junior clubs in north-west England.
The Metropolitan Police, Hampshire Police and Cheshire police have said they are investigating allegations of abuse in the football community.
Northumbria Police said it was investigating an allegation by an unnamed former Newcastle player that he was abused in the club’s youth system.
Newcastle said they would co-operate with authorities “if or when the club receives further information.”
Taylor also responded to newspaper claims that an unidentified Premier League club had paid off a player to prevent them going public with their story within the past two years.
“If clubs have paid off such youngsters and not done anything about the situation I think that’s a terrible lack of duty of care because they have an obligation to bring it out,” he said.
“That’s the only way we can grasp the nettle on this and try to set an example to the rest of society.”
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