As many as seven professional football clubs are now embroiled in the growing child sex abuse scandal, with more than 20 ex-players alleging they were victims, the head of the players’ union has said.
Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) chief executive Gordon Taylor spoke out as the Football Association (FA) stepped up its response to the growing crisis engulfing the sport.
English football’s governing body appointed senior lawyer Kate Gallafent QC to assist with its review into historical child sex abuse allegations starting in the 1970s, which have been revealed in recent days.
PFA head Taylor told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek: “From that time, of those who became apprentices and senior players, over 20 players have come forward.”
Asked to name clubs that had been connected to allegations, Taylor said: “We’d start at Crewe, go to Man City, Stoke, Blackpool, Newcastle, Leeds ... I’m expecting there will be more. I think we have six or seven clubs.
“I can’t believe it’s just going to be in the north west and north east.”
Culture Secretary Karen Bradley welcomed the FA’s appointment and urged other victims of abuse in sport to contact police, saying “you will be listened to”.
Andy Woodward became the first to speak out last week about abuse he suffered at the hands of convicted child abuser Barry Bennell, a former Crewe Alexandra coach.
Bennell, who worked for Crewe, Manchester City, Stoke and junior teams in north-west England and the Midlands, abused young boys from the 1970s onwards. He was jailed for four years for raping a British boy on a 1994 football tour of Florida, and given a nine-year sentence for 23 offences against six boys in England in 1998.
He was jailed for a third time in 2015 after admitting abusing a boy at a 1980 football camp in Macclesfield.
Those to have made allegations against Bennell include former Manchester City star David White and youth player Jason Dunford, plus ex-Crewe player Steve Walters and youngster Chris Unsworth.
Anthony Hughes, who represented England at the 1993 World Youth Championships, became the latest player to make allegations against the coach on Sunday.
Former England international Paul Stewart has also spoken out about being sexually abused by a coach as a child.
The Guardian reported that an unnamed former Newcastle United player had also contacted police with allegations against George Ormond, a north-east coach jailed for six years in 2002 for carrying out numerous assaults spanning 24 years.
The Premier League said it is “very concerned” by the allegations.
The Metropolitan Police and forces in Hampshire, Northumbria and Cheshire said they are investigating abuse allegations.
Crewe Alexandra has said it will launch an independent review of the way it dealt with historical child abuse allegations, after former board member Hamilton Smith said Bennell was allowed to stay on at the club despite concerns about his conduct.
Newcastle United, Blackpool and Leeds United said they had not yet been made aware of allegations but would cooperate fully if they received further information and Manchester City said it is reviewing Bennell’s links with the club.
Operation Hydrant, which oversees the investigation of allegations of historical child sex abuse within institutions or by people of public prominence, is trying to pinpoint the scale of the alleged abuse.
It has contacted all forces in England and Wales asking them to forward details of the allegations they have received following the recent publicity.