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Football sex abuse: Crewe launch child abuse investigation

Left to right: Jason Dunford, Steve Walters, Victoria Derbyshire, Chris Unsworth, Andy WoodwardImage copyright
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Ex-players Jason Dunford, Steve Walters, Chris Unsworth and Andy Woodward have spoken to the BBC about alleged abuse

Crewe Alexandra will hold an independent review into the way they dealt with historical child sex abuse allegations, the club has announced.

Four ex-players have made claims of sexual abuse against former Crewe youth team coach Barry Bennell.

Crewe said they were determined a thorough investigation took place at the earliest opportunity.

Bennell, now 62, has served three jail sentences for child sex offences, including one last year.

In a statement, Crewe Alexandra said it “believes an independent review, to be conducted via the appointment of external legal counsel, is the correct way forward in the circumstances”.

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Andy Woodward was the first player to go public with his claims last week. The former Bury and Sheffield United player says he was abused while at Crewe Alexandra from the age of 11 to 15.

After Mr Woodward appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme, Steve Walters, Chris Unsworth and Jason Dunford all came forward with their own allegations against Mr Bennell – none of which had formed part of any previous court case.

Media captionFootballers speak out over sexual abuse

More than 100 calls have been received by a special helpline set up by the NSPCC for people who wanted to talk about abuse at football clubs.

Police forces in Hampshire, Cheshire, Northumbria and London have opened investigations into historical child sexual abuse claims in football.

Senior figures in both the police and the FA have said they expect more allegations to surface.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday: “We are receiving reports of abuse in all sorts of different institutions.

“I am not in the least bit surprised that we are now seeing the lid lifted on exploitation within the world of football and I suspect there will be other sporting governing bodies who will come forward and who will identify the fact that they have similar problems.”

The Premier League said it was concerned by the allegations and urged those with information to come forward.

Former Wales international Robbie Savage, who played for Crewe from 1994-97, has also raised fears there could be hundreds of victims of sexual abuse within football.

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Getty Images

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The BBC football pundit played for Crewe when Bennell was coach – but he was not abused

The BBC football pundit was scouted by Bennell at the age of 11 but told the Mirror he was “one of the lucky ones” who was not abused by the coach.

“These boys were at an age when all they wanted in the world was to be a footballer,” said Savage, who called for a full inquiry with “total transparency”.

“If they were abused, maybe they were simply too scared to tell someone or they were terrified it was their football career over.”

A former director of Crewe Alexandra has said the club was aware in the late 1980s of allegations that Bennell had sexually abused a junior footballer.

Hamilton Smith told the Guardian that senior officials had discussed sacking Bennell but decided there was not enough evidence.

Mr Smith said talks had been convened between senior officials at Crewe Alexandra, who included then-chairman Norman Rowlinson, who died in 2006.

Despite the discussions, the paper says Bennell was allowed to stay in his position as youth coach.

Mr Smith said a decision was made that Bennell was not to be left alone with boys and he was stopped from having them stay overnight at his home.

Crewe did not comment on the latest allegations, but previously said they were “making inquiries”. The English League Two club has also said it is “reflecting from within”.

Crewe’s director of football Dario Gradi has said the first he knew of Bennell’s crimes was in 1994.

According to the Guardian, Mr Smith retained concerns about the set-up at Crewe after leaving the club.

The NSPCC has set up a helpline for people affected by sexual abuse at football clubs, supported by the FA. It is available 24 hours a day on 0800 023 2642

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38118429