Football sex abuse claims: Two more ex-players speak out

Barry BennellImage copyright

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Barry Bennell has been convicted several times of child abuse

Two more ex-footballers have told the Victoria Derbyshire programme they were abused as children by a coach.

Jason Dunford and Chris Unsworth both claim they were abused by former Crewe Alexandra coach Barry Bennell.

Four ex-footballers spoke out last week, making allegations about being sexually abused by coaches as children.

Bennell, 62, was jailed in 1998 for sex offences against children and was imprisoned again last year for sexually abusing a boy in 1980.

An NSPCC hotline was set up after the abuse claims came to light and received more than 50 calls within its first two hours.

Bennell, who also worked as a youth football scout, has also served a four-year sentence in the United States and, in 2015, was given a two-year term for sexually abusing a boy at a training camp in Macclesfield.

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Mr Unsworth, 44, who lives in the Peak District, said he decided to waive his right to anonymity and speak out after his girlfriend showed him an interview on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme with ex-Crewe player Andy Woodward.

Mr Woodward, 43, went public last week about his alleged abuse by Bennell.

Having seen his interview, Mr Unsworth then told his partner he had been abused. “I had never, ever told anyone until that moment,” he said.

“I sat the rest of my family down yesterday and told them too. Speaking out is liberating.”

Mr Unsworth was initially a youth player at Manchester City with Bennell and then moved to Crewe with him when he was about 12.

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Jason Dunford says he was “tormented” by Bennell.

He said he stayed at Bennell’s house several times and Bennell sometimes had two or three boys in the bed at once, where he would abuse them.

“We never spoke to each other about it,” Mr Unsworth said.

He left football aged 16 and became a professional golfer. He has now spoken to Cheshire Police and is waiting to be interviewed by them.

Mr Dunford, who has also waived his right to anonymity, said he had been staying at a Butlins holiday camp after winning a football competition, when Bennell attempted to touch him in bed.

He said: “I told him to get off me. After that, Bennell began to torment me – dropping me from the team, telling me I would play, but on the Sunday dropping me again.”

‘Closing is important’

Mr Dunford left the Manchester City nursery team, as it was known then, and moved to different boys’ teams. At one point, he said, another coach also attempted to abuse him.

He said: “He had me and two others over to stay the night before a game, and we all stayed in the same bed. He started to touch me in the night. I pushed his hand away.

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Steve Walters says he struggles with sleeping problems.

“Later I woke up again, and the coach was touching one of the other boys.”

Mr Dunford left that club two weeks after this alleged abuse. He has now given a report to the police.

Neither player turned professional, in part because they felt Bennell drove them away from the game.

Cheshire Police said 11 people had come forward after Mr Woodward spoke out, including his fellow ex-Crewe player Steve Walters, 44, who said he had been abused by Bennell, when he was 13 or 14, during a trip to Anglesey

“Closing it is important to me,” he said.

“A young boy goes to a football club to play football, not to rip his life apart.

“Whoever is accountable for this needs to pay now, because there’s more than one of us.”

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David White (left), Paul Stewart and Andy Woodward have all made claims of being abused

Mr Walters said he had seen counsellors and “struggles with nightmares and sleeping problems”.

“My name was always mentioned by other people who thought I’d been abused, so police asked me three times, but I always denied it,” he said.

“I thought I still had a chance of football, which is why I kept saying it didn’t happen.”

Rooney support

Dario Gradi, who was Crewe Alexandra’s manager for more than 24 years and is now its director of football and academy director, has offered “sympathy to the victims of Barry Bennell” and said he had first known of his crimes when Bennell was arrested in the United States in 1994.

England captain Wayne Rooney, who is also a NSPCC ambassador, has urged other players to come forward following the charity’s hotline launch.

From 2001, the Football Association put in place new rules to protect children, requiring teams to have a trained safeguarding or welfare officer.

But some critics say this relies too much on children being able to report abuse.

Another form of protection – called mandatory reporting – is in place in many other countries. This makes it a criminal offence to not report neglect or suspicions of neglect.

After Mr Woodward spoke out, ex-players David White and Paul Stewart also waived their right to anonymity to speak out about alleged abuse.

Mr White, a former Manchester City and England player, 49, said Bennell had abused him between 1979 and 1980.

Mr Stewart, 52, a former England international who started his career at Blackpool and also played for Manchester City and Liverpool, has told the BBC he believes hundreds of people could come forward to say they were abused as young players.

He previously told the Daily Mirror an unnamed coach had abused him daily for four years up to the age of 15.

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.

The Victoria Derbyshire programme is broadcast on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News channel.

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