A child abuse scandal is threatening to engulf professional football clubs in England, with former players alleging the existence of paedophile rings that operated unchecked. Several former professional players have come forward to reveal they were abused as children while playing for their clubs. Andy Woodward was the first to go public, saying former coach, Barry Bennell, had abused him. Bennell earlier has served three jail sentences for child abuse. Former England midfielder Paul Stewart has revealed that "hundreds" of former players may have been subjected to child sexual abuse. The ex-Tottenham and Liverpool striker told the BBC on Friday that from the age of 11 he was abused on a daily basis by a youth team coach. England captain Wayne Rooney has urged players who have been sexually abused to call the helpline so they do not suffer in silence. British Prime Minister Theresa May has also praised the men for their courage in coming forward
Alan Shearer, the former England striker and NSPCC(National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) ambassador was the latest to express his shock at what has emerged and solidarity with those who had come forward. “Over the last week I have been shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the abuse that colleagues, and in some cases former team-mates, suffered,” he said. “I have nothing but huge respect and admiration for all the players who are now coming forward, bravely breaking years of silence in a bid to help others. They’ve carried a terrible burden for too long.” Shearer sought to reassure parents of children who would be playing football this weekend that changes had been made.
The FA chairman, Greg Clarke, described it as one of the biggest crises in the organisation’s history. Asked about claims that clubs may have tried to bribe players to stay silent about their abuse, he described the concept as “morally repugnant”. He has promised that any club guilty of “hushing up” sexual abuse to protect their image will be punished. Police chiefs said there was no sign of any let up in the reports of abuse. The priority for forces was to assess whether those named posed a present risk to children, and to deal with them before moving on to investigate historical abuse claims.