The Football Association says its priority is to ensure there is not a “new generation of victims”, after a number of former footballers said they were abused as children by coaches.
FA chairman Greg Clarke met former Crewe player Andy Woodward, the first person to speak out, on Thursday.
A hotline set up by children’s charity the NSPCC and backed by the FA got more than 50 calls in its first two hours.
“I’d like to share my regret at the pain victims suffered,” said Clarke.
“We will make sure no stones are left unturned in making sure there isn’t a new generation of victims – and victims that have been hurt are truly helped.”
Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney, an NSPCC ambassador, said: “It’s awful that some of my colleagues have suffered this way whilst playing the sport that I and they love. It’s important that people know that it’s OK to speak out, there is help available and that they don’t need to suffer in silence.”
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Woodward, former Crewe team-mate Steve Walters, and ex-Manchester City player David White all say they were abused by convicted paedophile and former football coach Barry Bennell.
Ex-Tottenham player Paul Stewart claims an unnamed coach – not Bennell – abused him daily for four years.
All four men have waived their right to lifelong anonymity to speak to the media.
Two other former youth players, Jason Dunford and Chris Unsworth, say they were abused by Bennell and spoke to Friday’s edition of the Victoria Derbyshire programme (09:00 GMT, BBC Two). They have come forward after seeing Woodward’s interview.
Manchester City said they are investigating “any past links” with Bennell, adding: “The club is aware of allegations that Barry Bennell had an association with Manchester City Football Club in the 1980s.”
Meanwhile, according to the Guardian, an anonymous ex-footballer has also contacted police to say he was a victim of George Ormond – a former Newcastle United youth coach who was jailed in 2002 for offences against young footballers in the area.
A spokesman for Northumbria Police told the Guardian it has received an allegation of “historic sexual offences in Newcastle” and that inquiries are ongoing.
Bennell, a youth coach at Crewe in the 1980s and 1990s, was sentenced to nine years in prison in 1998 after admitting sexual offences against six boys. He has been jailed three times for child sex abuse – including once in America.
Clarke was asked if the FA had failed to take appropriate action in the 1990s. He said: “If there was no response then, that was appalling.”
He added: “I believe the FA has done a lot of good work since then, set up safeguarding rules, put criminal records checks in place. It has done a lot of work to make sure the situation is better.
“There are robust measures in place to ensure safeguarding of minors in football clubs across England. Are they perfect? No. There is no substitute for vigilant parenting. I am not claiming the system is perfect. We are rechecking everything.”
Clarke said he had written to 30,000 professional and amateur football clubs in England. In his letter, he said: “We cannot and will not be complacent.”
He added his immediate priority was to ensure potential victims “felt safe” to come forward and “report terrible crimes”.
After meeting Clarke and other senior FA officials, Woodward said: “My concern is not looking back now, it is looking at what to do now, what to put in place to protect children even at grassroots.”
‘Football environment is perfect breeding ground’
Former England midfielder Danny Murphy came through the ranks at Crewe when Bennell was at the club.
The 39-year-old said Bennell was “charismatic”, and added he had stayed at the coach’s house.
“My experience of Barry was quite brief,” Murphy told BBC Sport.
“I was trained by him. He was a good coach. He had a nasty side – he could be a bit of a tyrant in training and go after people. He was good at his job and players liked to be in his sessions.
“I stayed at Barry’s house one particular night, I recall. Hand on my heart, I didn’t experience any negativity or problems at all.”
Murphy said the football environment is “a perfect breeding ground for anybody who wants to do things to children”.
He said: “The ability to take groups of children on trips, for a tournament, is there. That unfortunately means some will take advantage of that.
“At professional level, kids are desperate to become footballers and that particular coach can make it happen or not, they believe. For some of the lads, Barry was that person. ‘If I don’t tow the line, if I don’t do what he says maybe I’ll be dropped’, and that’s what Andy Woodward was saying in his piece.”
On Thursday evening, police were seen at Bennell’s address in Milton Keynes, removing a dog and some boxes.
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/38098979