FA appoints senior lawyer to review child sex abuse claims

The Football Association (FA) has appointed a senior lawyer to assist with its review into historical child sex abuse allegations.

Former players Jason Dunford, Steve Walters, Chris Unsworth and Andy Woodward spoke on the issue of abuse. Picture: PA

Kate Gallafent, QC, will oversee the internal review, which has been set up following a string of allegations by former youth footballers.

Andy Woodward became the first to speak out last week about abuse he suffered at the hands of convicted child abuser Barry Bennell, a former Crewe Alexandra coach.

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The FA said that a “wide-ranging inquiry may be required in time” but said it was supporting police with their investigations and “must ensure we do not do anything to interfere with or jeopardise the criminal process”.

It added: “The internal review will look into what information the FA was aware of at the relevant times around the issues that have been raised in the press, what clubs were aware of, and what action was or should have been taken.”

Ms Gallafent will make recommendations “to ensure these situations can never be repeated”, the FA said.

The Metropolitan Police and forces in Hampshire, Northumbria and Cheshire said they are investigating allegations.

Some claims came from a dedicated NSPCC hotline – 0800 023 2642 – commissioned by the FA for football-related cases.

A “significant” number of other alleged victims of abuse are likely to come forward and other sporting governing bodies may yet report similar problems, Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for child protection, has warned.

Bennell, who worked for Crewe, Manchester City, Stoke and junior teams in north-west England and the Midlands, abused young boys from the 1970s onwards.

He was jailed for four years for raping a British boy on a 1994 football tour of Florida, and given a nine-year sentence for 23 offences against six boys in England in 1998.

He was jailed for a third time in 2015 after admitting abusing a boy at a 1980 football camp in Macclesfield.

Those to have made allegations against Bennell include former Manchester City star David White and youth player Jason Dunford, plus ex-Crewe player Steve Walters and youngster Chris Unsworth.

Former England international Paul Stewart has also spoken out about being sexually abused by a coach as a child.

An unnamed former Newcastle United player had reportedly also contacted police with allegations against George Ormond, a coach jailed for six years in 2002 for carrying out numerous assaults spanning 24 years.

Crewe Alexandra has said it will launch an independent review of the way it dealt with historical child abuse allegations. A former Crewe board member said the club was told Bennell had sexually abused one of its junior footballers.

Hamilton Smith, who was on the board between 1986 and 1990, said he called for a meeting after being told a boy had been abused. Bennell was allowed to stay on at the club, but orders were issued that he should not be left alone with boys, Mr Smith said.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse said it was “watching events closely” .

The Premier League said in a statement that the organisation was“very concerned” by the allegations.