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mercoledì 23 novembre 2016

Football sexual abuse scandal: "hundreds abused"

Andy Woodward, the ex-footballer whose revelations have sparked an inquiry into sexual abuse at youth level football, says that the case could be worse than the Jimmy Savile scandal. 

Barry Bennell, who coached at Crewe and other clubs, was described by the American authorities as having ‘almost an insatiable appetite’ for young boys. Photograph: PA/PA Archive/PA Images
Speaking on Good Morning Britain on Wednesday, Woodward says he has ‘hundreds of stories’ of historical abuse. He believes Crewe Alexandra should be taking the allegations more seriously after another of the club’s former players came forward. Incidents are alleged to have taken place during the 1970s and 1980s. A statement released by Crewe on Tuesday said the club would take all allegations seriously
  • Football sexual abuse scandal could be worse than Jimmy Savile case, says Andy Woodward – video
  • Cheshire police expand football sexual abuse inquiry as more people come forward
  • It was May, 1988, when a prodigiously talented teenager by the name of Steve Walters became the youngest player in the history of Crewe Alexandra, at the age of 16 years and 119 days, and it is a record that stands to this day at a club renowned for its production line of footballers.
    Walters was a skilful, combative midfielder with a Plymouth accent, an eye for a pass and an almost obsessive desire to get to the top of the sport. He was at Lilleshall, the Football Association’s school of excellence, in the same crop as Andy Cole and Ian Walker, two future England internationals, and chose Crewe because of their reputation for giving teenage prospects a quick route to the first team. Tottenham Hotspur were among the clubs that wanted him but Crewe had their own attractions, with a heavy emphasis on youth development, and the young, impressionable Walters liked what he heard from the man who invited him to Gresty Road.
  • That man was Barry Bennell, the serial paedophile who has featured prominently in these pages over the last week and, until now, Walters has never felt able to talk publicly about what happened to him at Crewe, the shattering effects it had on his childhood and how, at 44, he has spent more than 30 years with everything bottled up, living with the secret that has distorted his life.
    Then, last Wednesday, he read Andy Woodward’s interview about the years of sexual abuse and mental torture he suffered from Bennell, from the age of 11 onwards, and how his old friend feared that many others – hundreds, potentially – had been targeted by a man described by the American authorities as having “almost an insatiable appetite” for young boys.
    For Walters, a year older than Woodward in the Crewe system, it was a gruelling, difficult read but, in another sense, exactly what he needed to start his own process of rebuilding. He, too, was abused by a man who has described himself in legal proceedings as a “monster”. The difference is Walters was never part of the case against his former coach. Woodward’s interview left him with a feeling of empowerment he had never experienced before and the sense, finally, that he had the chance to free himself of his own turmoil. He picked up the phone and made the call that will change the rest of his life.
    Others have come forward since Woodward, one of the footballers who helped to secure Bennell’s longest prison sentence, waived his right to anonymity but Walters is the first to speak publicly. “All these years, I’ve had this secret inside me,” he says. “But I have to let it all out now. It’s the only way. I want closure and I know, for a fact, this is going to help me move on. It’s been unbearable but, just from reading the article from Andy, it already feels like a massive burden off my shoulders. I have to do this, and I just hope it will help bring more people forward, too.”
    Both are aware of other victims who have suffered in silence. But there will be more, Walters fears, given that Bennell worked in junior and professional football across three decades. Many more? “Definitely.”
    For Walters, it all began in 1984 at the Butlin’s holiday camp in Minehead when he won the first stage of a schoolboys’ football competition where the prize, ultimately, was to train with Manchester United. Walters went all the way through the different stages of the competition and, at the age of 12, travelled to the Cliff, United’s old training ground, to show what he could do in the company of Bryan Robson and the rest of Ron Atkinson’s players.
    Bennell, who had a close association in the past with Manchester City and also had links with Stoke City, as well being involved with junior teams in Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire and Greater Manchester, was on the touchline and liked what he saw.
  • “He’d just finished with Man City and started with Crewe,” Walters says. “To start with, I would stay in Crewe during my school holidays, as well as the odd weekend, and sometimes I’d stay at his house. To me, he was the top coach there was. He could do tricks with the ball I’d never seen before. Everything was so impressive about him and he had this ability to make you feel special. He used to promise me he would make me a better player. He would tell me I was the best young midfield player he had ever seen, and that he would help me play for England, and I believed him.”
  • Bennell, he says, had “loads of boys” staying with him and, initially, that helped his own settling-in process. Bennell had easy access. “The first time he tried anything I can remember getting a bit aggressive with him,” Walters says. “It was a dark room and I was on the top bunk when he came in. I told him to get out and, after that, nothing happened for quite a while but that was him testing the water. I think it was a case of: ‘There’s nothing happening here, but give it a bit of time.’ Then, two or three months later, it started again. I just wish I could turn the clocks back but I was at such a young age I felt almost paralysed.”
  • “I just had to pretend it never happened and block it out. I knew it could never come out and I was absolutely petrified because I thought that if it did ever come out that would be it for my career – finished. In my mind, I wouldn’t even be able to go out, never mind play football. And football was my dream. It was my life. Even at Lilleshall, I was the one boy who used to train extra all the time. They used to say I was crazy, but I was so determined to succeed.”
    “I was confused. Why me? I retracted in myself. Dario used to say to me: ‘You’re a strange boy’ and I used to think: ‘Well, one of your coaches has done this to me.’ It was sheer confusion. I used to think: ‘Am I gay?’ and the culture back then was that there were no such thing as gays in football. Obviously it’s completely different now but if it had come out then I would have been hammered.
    “The first team at Crewe used to crucify me anyway, saying I was the ‘son of Dario’, and it felt like my career would have been finished. That’s why, when the investigation started and the police started coming to see me, I never said anything. The CID came round a few times, but I kept denying it. In my mind, if I’d said what happened to me I didn’t think I could carry on playing football.”
  • The abuse lasted for a year before Bennell, in keeping with the pattern of his offending, moved on when Walters was 14. Then, at 17, Walters was diagnosed with a blood disorder. “I was ill for about five months. I lost a lot of weight and then I started getting temporary arthritis in certain joints. It’s called incomplete Reiter’s syndrome. I went to see all these different specialists and, after a few years, I was told I would never play football again. They told me the infection can be dormant in your body for years. But you can also get it because of something passed on through sexual contact. So I’ve got to think now: has that come from him? That, for me, is one of the hardest things. I’ve always got that doubt in my head: has that man caused me to have this blood disorder? It might not have been him, but the doubt’s always there.”
    Bennell, meanwhile, is out on licence, using the name Richard Jones, after being sentenced to two years in prison in May 2015 for a historical case involving a 12-year-boy on a football course in Macclesfield. Now 62, he previously served nine years for 23 specimen charges of sexual offences, including buggery, against six boys aged nine to 15, one of them being Woodward, with 22 other offences allowed to lie on file. Bennell’s crimes were first detected in 1994 when was he given a four-year sentence in Florida after admitting to the buggery and indecent assault of a boy on a football tour.
  • Walters, waiving his right to anonymity in order to speak, believes “a man like that should never be let out” and has been in contact with the police – along with at least five others – and the Professional Footballers’ Association. “It’s been a really tough week because of the way it’s brought everything back but, at the same time, I’m so glad Andy has started this. It’s going to help me to move on with my own life. I’ve been so upset but this is the first step to recovery.”

Second footballer reveals abuse by serial paedophile Barry Bennell Daniel Taylor 23 November 2016

Woodward, now 43, said he had been raped on hundreds of occasions and spoke of his belief that many other players had suffered in silence because of a man who described himself in legal proceedings as a “monster” but once had a reputation for being one of the outstanding coaches and talent-spotters in the sport.

Two players have independently told this newspaper of another person within the football world who they say abused them, while Crewe have broken their silence amid growing criticism of the way they were handling the fallout of Woodward’s interview.
John Bowler, the club’s chairman since 1987 and a director from 1980, said it was unfair to think they were not taking the issue seriously enough and that the nine-man board of directors would hold specially convened talks in the light of Woodward’s harrowing story and the growing realisation about the way the case was escalating.
Dario Gradi, the club’s director of football and long-serving former manager, had earlier said that the directors and staff had been placed under instructions to “keep out of it” but, five days after Woodward’s interview was published, Bowler insisted Crewe did not warrant criticism for their lack of response.
“All this came out of the blue,” Bowler said. “When things come out of the blue you want to make some inquiries from within. There is no doubt we concur with what the FA have said and we are now looking at it from within and considering what our actions should be going forward.
“We are a proud club and when allegations are made that we didn’t take it seriously we want to reflect. I will be meeting with the directors to review the situation. I’m the chairman but we have a board of very dedicated people who are at the heart of what Crewe Alexandra are about. We don’t take lightly – and I don’t mean that aggressively – any of these comments. We are not belittling anything.
“I’m not asking you to be kind but please don’t be too unkind because we really are taking it seriously and looking at the whole issue. We are talking about something 30 years ago, and a lot has changed in that time, but we must look at the current climate and, if we are to make changes, not just at Crewe but in football.”
Bennell was imprisoned for nine years in 1998 after admitting 23 specimen charges against six boys, aged nine to 15, with another 22 offences allowed to lie on file. The hearing at Chester crown court was told one offence took place on one of Crewe’s training pitches. Another was said to have happened at Gradi’s house, though the court was told the then manager did not know about it.

Six come forward after Andy Woodward’s story of abuse at Crewe Daniel Taylor 22 November 2016 

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