Football abuse victim says Kiwi family members didn't know of allegations

English football player Andy Woodward. Photo / AP
English football player Andy Woodward. Photo / AP

A former English professional football player who has revealed he suffered sexual abuse by a youth team coach said his extended family in New Zealand will be shocked by hearing him talk about it publicly.

Andy Woodward, who played for Sheffield United, was the first player to go public about the abuse he suffered from convicted paedophile Barry Bennell during the late 1980s at football side Crewe.

In the last week more players have come out publicly admitting they also suffered sexual abuse by coaches while at youth teams.

Woodward said family members in New Zealand weren't aware he suffered the abuse and will shocked to hear him talk about it.

"I've got a lot of family over there [in New Zealand] that might be listening," Woodward told the RadioSport Breakfast.

"It's something that's pretty much been kept close to the tight family really. So it might be a bit of a shock to them."

Woodward said after going through therapy and following the Jimmy Saville investigation in the United Kingdom, he felt the time was right to come out in the public.

"I've gone through a lot of therapy over the last 18 months. It's something that has been inside me for God knows how many years but I knew there were so many more people out there who had suffered at the hands of an evil monster. I'm talking hundreds. And I just felt with the therapy I'd had it gave me the ability to think 'now's the time'.

"I thought if they feel they're able to come out and put my head above the parapet and just hope to God that they are strong enough."

Woodward told Radio Sport that he expects more players to admit they were abused, with the number likely to enter the hundreds.

"There is hundreds out there and it's so sad because some of the players never made it and they didn't make it, not because they good enough but because they were suffering in silence. "

"I think the numbers are going to increase as we go along. And they're just heartfelt stories as well. People who have kept this to them for 30 years. They've suffered in silence and they've had the same sort of life as me, trouble relationships and what not. There's going to be more. I just can't put it into words what it's felt like the response I've had."

Manchester City launched an investigation after David White and Paul Stewart, who played for the club across the 1980s and 1990s and went on to feature for England, came forward with their stories.

"The club is aware of allegations that Barry Bennell had an association with Manchester City Football Club in the 1980s," City said in a statement. "As a result the club is undertaking a thorough investigation of any past links he might have had with the organization."

City's response came 21 years after Bennell was first convicted in the United States. In Jacksonville, Florida, the Englishman pleaded guilty to six counts of custodial sexual battery in exchange for four years in prison. He had been charged with raping a boy and repeatedly sexually assaulting a player from a youth team he had escorted to the U.S.

After serving his sentence in the U.S., Bennell was convicted again in Britain - receiving a six-year sentence for 23 offences. The case received little publicity at the time. But Bennell was jailed for a third time in 2015 when he pleaded guilty to abusing a boy at a football camp in northern England in 1980, prompting a fresh examination of his crimes and potential abuses by other coaches. Bennell is not currently in prison.

"I believe there was a conspiracy and pedophile ring," Jason Dunford, a youth team player with Manchester City, told the BBC on Friday. "There were people at those clubs who had a duty to look after boys coming through their system."

A police force based near Crewe and Manchester said 11 people had contacted them already this week and that the allegations were made against more than one person.

A children's charity has received a flood of calls since setting up a dedicated helpline for footballers in conjunction with the Football Association.

HOW THE STORY UNFOLDED
1994: Barry Bennell, the former Crewe coach, was sentenced to four years in prison in the United States after pleading guilty to six counts of sexual assault, including the rape of a boy, while coaching Staffordshire side Stone Dominoes during their youth tour of Florida.
1997: Bennell was unmasked when he was the subject of an English television programme called Dispatches programme. One victim, Ian Ackley, waived his right to anonymity to say he'd been repeatedly raped by Bennell.
1998: Bennell was found guilty at Chester Crown Court in England in 1998 of 23 offences against six boys, aged from nine to 15, and was sentenced to nine years in jail.
2001: Former Crewe director Hamilton Smith, who had concerns about the youth set-up at the club, said he he had asked the English FA to carry out an investigation into the club's care of children. Tony Pickerin, the FA's head of education and child protection at the time, replied that the FA had 'investigated the issues and is satisfied that there is no case to answer'.
2015: Bennell was given a further sentence in 2015 when he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing another boy at a camp in Macclesfield in 1980.
Nov 16: Former Bury and Sheffield United player Andy Woodward, 43, reveals that from the age of 11 he was subjected to four years of sexual assault by Barry Bennell while at Crewe Alexandra.
Nov 22: Steve Walters, 44, who in 1988 became the club's youngest debutant, also claims he was sexually abused by Bennell while at Crewe.
Nov 23: Former England and Tottenham footballer Paul Stewart, 52, breaks his silence, claiming he was sexually abused as a youth player. Stewart, who began his professional career with Blackpool and also played for Manchester City and Liverpool, claims that an unnamed coach - not Bennell - abused him daily for four years. Former Manchester City striker David White, 49, alleges he was also sexually abused by Bennell in the late 1970s and early 1980s, while playing for Whitehill FC junior team in Manchester.
Nov 24: The NSPCC says a hotline set up in the wake of the revelations receives more than 50 calls in the first two hours. Four police forces are now investigating allegations of historical child sex abuse in football.
Nov 24: The police force in Northumberland say they have received a complaint from a former Newcastle United player, claiming he was abused by George Ormond, a man who has already had a six-year prison sentence for a string of convictions involving boys from the club's youth system over a 24-year period. The allegations were understood to relate to Ormond's time prior to his spell in charge of Newcastle United's youth team, which were among the offences he was convicted of in 2002.
Nov 25: Two other footballers, Jason Dunford and Chris Unsworth, neither of whom turned professional, say they were abused by Bennell as youth players at Crewe.

- With AP/ Daily Mail

- NZ Herald

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