Children’s charity the NSPCC says that child sex abuse is almost certaintly still going on in football today.
The charity’s comments came as new England boss Gareth Southgate praised the bravery of sex abuse victims who have come forward, and said one of those abused was a former teammate.
Fourteen police forces across the country say they are investigating claims from 350 current and former soccer players who have reported they were raped or abused.
Mr Southgate’s former Crystal Palace teammate Paul Stewart is one of the latest players to reveal his ordeal. The England manager said that the stories coming out from former child players were “heartbreaking”. He added that following investigations, he hoped lessons were learned.
However, he moved to reassure any parents worried about sending their children to youth games this weekend, saying that the game was very different to how it was two decades ago.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council has released figures showing that 350 players have been in touch with forces across Britain. Meanwhile, the NSPCC said that it received more than triple the number of phone calls during the first three days of a special hotline than it did following the first revelations about Jimmy Savile.
The NSPCC said it had now received nearly 900 calls in just one week and that it “would be naive” to believe that abuse was no longer going on in the game of football.
The helpline was set up with support and money from the Football Association (FA), following the first revelations from former player Andy Woodward, who waived his right to lifelong anonymity as a sex abuse victim, to speak out about what he had faced as a young player.
Within just two hours, the helpline had been called 50 times, while in three days, it had made 60 referrals to the police or children’s services. That compares to 17 referrals when the Jimmy Savile scandal broke four years ago.