Following Andy Woodward waiving his anonymity that he was sexually abused by his football coach as a boy, three former footballers have now also come forward to speak publically about the ordeal they suffered by their coaches as children. David White and Steve Walters former Manchester City players and Paul Stewart an ex Tottenham player have spoken out.
The NSPCC has launched a dedicated hotline in response to these claims, which has been fully supported by the Football Association (FA). Peter Wanless Chief of the NSPCC has said, “There must be no hiding place for sexual abuse in out national game. There may be many others who have suffered through such horrors as young people but have never come forward.”
The hotline number is 0800 023 264 and is available 24 hours a day.
Andy Woodward last week spoke of being abused by his former Crewe Alexandra Coach and Scout Leader, Barry Bennell. David White has also alleged that he was abused by Bennell while he was playing for Whitehill FC Junior Team in Manchester between 1979 and 1980. Steve Walters was another victim of Bennell.
David White has said that an unnamed coach abused him daily for 4 years until the age of 15.
Since Andy Woodward has come forward the Cheshire Police has said that 11 people have come to them with allegations against Bennell. Bennell was convicted of sex offences against 6 boys in 1998.
The FA’s Head of Equality and Safeguarding, Sue Ravenlaw has said that, “the courage and dignity shown by the footballers who have spoken out is immense.” Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP warned that, “A criminal record check on coaches was not enough. The FA need to look immediately at what action can be taken to ensure our children are being coaches and supervised by those who have their best interests at heart.”
Any Woodward said last week that he found it very difficult to speak about the abuse at the time, he was threatened by Bennell that “ his dream of playing professional football would be taken away from him” and he felt that his allegations were just “ brushed under the carpet” by the football club.
Boys in youth football teams often feel powerless to come forward for fear that they won’t be believed and that coming forward will damage their careers. It is often their abuser who will be instrumental in their progression in the game and use this control and power to make their victims feel powerless and unable to tell people what is happening to them. The NSPCC have stated that boys are more than 5 times less likely to speak up about sexual abuse than girls.
It is hoped that the courage shown by these former football players will encourage boys who may be in a similar position to them, playing in youth teams, feeling frightened to tell people what is happening to them, to come forward and know that they will have the full support of their football club; they will be listen to and believed.
Peter Wanless has praised the FA’s commitment to supporting, “those boys who need help and support in the game” .It is acknowledged that it can be more difficult for boys to speak out and they must be assured that they can speak to people and get the help they need.