Since the public revelations last month by former pro Andy Woodward
of suffering sexual abuse a young player, dozens of suspects and clubs have been named and the English Football Association
plans to conduct an internal review. Police officials say 83 suspects have been implicated and 98 clubs through all levels of the English game have been affected.
The National Society for
the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) says 98 percent of the victims are male and the age range is 7 to 20 of those allegedly abused. In mid-November, Woodward revealed that he’d been
sexually abused as a young player. Allegations from Woodward -- who played for Crew Alexandra, Bury, and Sheffield United -- prompted other players, including Paul Stewart
, to speak publicly of their stories.
Woodward has spearheaded the formation of an independent entity, the Offside Trust, to support victims and is seeking donations from the FA,
Football League, Premier League, Professional Footballers' Association and business organizations that invest in the English game to support the effort.
Stewart, a former Spurs player,
says the sport could be on the brink of a scandal such as the one that enveloped Jimmy Savile
. After his death in 2011, the former DJ and radio and television personality was revealed as a
prolific sexual predator accused by hundreds of victims -- children and adults -- in cases of abuse and rape.
A lawyer representing the Offside Trust told the BBC “calls and emails
are coming in all the time” from people claiming to have been forced to sign non-disclosure agreements with clubs in return for compensation. Edward Smethurst
victims have come forward.
A few clubs have already taken action. Chelsea is investigating allegations raised by former player Gary Johnson
, who suffered abuse in the 1970s.
Queen’s Park Rangers have pledged its support of investigations into the behavior of former employee Chris Gieler
Ex-Southampton coach Bob Higgins
allegations that he gave a “naked massage” to former player Matt Le Tissier
and showered with young players while working for the Maltese soccer federation from 1989 to 1994.
is heading an internal review by the English FA of what cases had been brought to its attention and whether action was taken. A BBC program investigating the issue reported
the FA in 2003 scrapped a major review of its child protection policies. Ian Ackley
told the program that his father's calls for better protection "fell on deaf ears" and the FA reacted "dismissively"
to worries about abuse in the game. Ackley says he was abused while a Manchester City youth player.
Alexandra football director Dario Gradi
will be questioned by the FA
regarding claims he squelched a complaint of sex assault brought against scout Eddie Heath
in the 1970s.
The Child Protection in Sport Unit will review the FA's practices. Twenty-one police organizations, including the Metropolitan Police (Greater London), have opened investigations into the
claims: Devon and Cornwall, Warwickshire, Avon and Somerset, Essex, Norfolk, North Yorkshire, Dorset, Staffordshire, Greater Manchester, North Wales, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire, Cheshire, West
Midlands, South Wales, Dyfed-Powys, Scotland Yard, Police Scotland, Northumbria Police, Derbyshire Constabulary, and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
A sexual abuse hotline set up
by the NSPCC and supported by the FA received 860 calls within its first three days. Cases involving soccer teams, coaches and players are also being investigated in Scotland, Wales, and Northern