Sex abuse cases in UK football involves some of England's biggest clubs

Former Crewe Alexandra youth coach Barry Bennell is at the centre of the scandal. Photo / Getty
Former Crewe Alexandra youth coach Barry Bennell is at the centre of the scandal. Photo / Getty

A British organisation manning a hotline set up for sexual abuse cases in football says calls have more than tripled the amount made in the first three days of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Launched on November 23 to support the victims of child sex abuse within football, the NSPCC said more than 860 calls had been made to the helpline in its first week.

Chief executive Peter Wanless said there had been a "staggering surge" in the amount of people getting in touch.

"The number of high-profile footballers bravely speaking out about their ordeal has rightly caught the attention of the entire country," he said.

"We have had a staggering surge in calls to our football hotline, which reveals the worrying extent of abuse that had been going on within the sport."

The helpline was set up with the support and funding of the English Football Association.

Within two hours of the opening of the helpline, the charity said it had been contacted 50 times by members of the public. Within the first three days, it had made 60 referrals to the police or children's services.

The charity made 17 such referrals in the same time frame following the opening of its Savile helpline four years ago.

Savile was a long-time British TV star who after his death in 2011 was exposed as a seral paedophile.

WHAT DID PROFESSIONAL CLUBS KNOW ABOUT THE ABUSE?

English football's governing body launched a review Sunday into an escalating child sex-abuse scandal to discover what professional clubs knew about crimes being committed by coaches and what action should have been taken at the time.

No such investigation was launched by the Football Association after Barry Bennell, a coach at the centre of the scandal who was linked to Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra, was first convicted in the 1990s in both the United States and England for molesting players.

It has taken former victims of Bennell and other coaches to waive their anonymity over the past two weeks to bring a fresh light on abuses they suffered while trying to break into professional football.

The players' union said more than 20 players had called them with allegations of abuse.

"This is centring for the moment on clubs Crewe Alexandra, Blackpool, Manchester City, Stoke, Leeds United and then, in the northeast Newcastle United. It would be naive to think there won't be clubs as well in all areas," Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor told Sky News television.

DID CLUBS PAY FOR PLAYERS' SILENCE?

Claims have also emerged that clubs in England agreed settlements with players who suffered sexual abuse in exchange for confidentiality about the cases.

"I find it incredible if clubs have been paying these lads to be quiet," said Mr Taylor, who has been involved with the PFA since 1972.

Premier League club Chelsea issued a statement saying they were investigating a deceased former employee - believed to be Eddie Heath, their chief scout in the 1970s, the Daily Mail reports.

Chelsea later refused to deny they had bought a victim's silence.

Clubs could face compensation payouts in the millions if they are found to have failed players in football's sex abuse scandal, a leading MP claimed last night.

Damian Collins, Conservative chair of the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, also warned that the FA could also face huge payouts.

- news.com.au

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