Seventeen different police forces are investigating sex abuse allegations in English youth soccer, with at least 350 people having come forward to allege crimes, reports The Guardian. As just one example, the Greater Manchester police say they have received reports from 35 alleged victims, and have identified 10 suspects. In the week since launching a helpline dedicated to child sex abuse in soccer, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has received 860 calls.
Andy Woodward, a former player for fourth-tier Crewe Alexandria, first told The Guardian about being abused by convicted sex offender Barry Bennell two weeks ago. Since then, a number of other former players have detailed to the press how they were abused by youth coaches, and each day brings new horrifying revelations.
Given the scale of allegations, the sexual abuse of youth soccer players clearly wasn’t limited to just one club, or one perpetrator. Former Southampton players Dean Radford and Jamie Webb are the latest alleged victims to come forward, telling the BBC South about being sexually abused by a former Southampton employee, with the BBC also writing that “a number of other players have also come forward saying they were abused at the club.”
Former Newcastle player David Eatock told The Guardian about being abused by youth coach George Ormond, who was convicted in 2002 of 15 counts of indecent assault against seven different boys. Eatock detailed alleged assaults that took place in 1995 and 1998, when he was 18 and 21-years-old respectively. Most other alleged victims who have come forward have detailed abuse that happened when they were younger, and in the 1970s or 1980s. Eatock’s allegations raise questions about if, or when, players who are still playing will level allegations, or if coaches still coaching will be accused.
The Telegraph first reported that Chelsea had recently paid a former player to prevent him from going public about claims of being abused by former chief scout Eddie Heath in the 1970s. The Mirror reports that player was Gary Johnson, who says he was assaulted hundreds of times by Heath. A few years ago he tried reporting the abuse to police and the Professional Footballers Association, but to no avail, which is when he approached Chelsea. In 2015 Chelsea paid Johnson £50,000 to keep quiet, but recently waived that provision. Under Premier League rules, teams are required to report to the league and FA any evidence of child abuse.