Football: Ex-coach charged as abuse probe widens

League Two side Crewe Alexandra's ground, one of the sites where Barry Bennell was alleged to have groomed his targets for child abuse. At least 20 former footballers have come out to relate their horrifying experiences.
League Two side Crewe Alexandra's ground, one of the sites where Barry Bennell was alleged to have groomed his targets for child abuse. At least 20 former footballers have come out to relate their horrifying experiences.PHOTO: REUTERS
Barry Bennell, in a 1998 picture, is due to appear in court on Dec 14.
Barry Bennell, in a 1998 picture, is due to appear in court on Dec 14.

Convicted paedophile Barry Bennell faces 8 counts of sexual assault in growing scandal

LONDON • Former Crewe Alexandra youth-team coach Barry Bennell, who is at the centre of a scandal rocking English football, was on Tuesday charged with eight counts of child abuse, prosecutors said.

Bennell, who has already served three jail terms for previous child sex offences, has faced a slew of new allegations by at least 20 former footballers spanning three decades beginning in the 1970s when he was working for Crewe Alexandra, Manchester City and Stoke City.

"Following a review of the evidence, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, Mr Bennell, 62, has today been charged with eight offences of sexual assault against a boy under the age of 14," said a statement from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Bennell will appear in court on Dec 14.

The latest charges stem from Cheshire Police but six other police forces are investigating accusations made against him in a scandal Football Association (FA) chairman Greg Clarke has called "the greatest crisis" in English football.

SAD DAY FOR THE SPORT

It's certainly the biggest (crisis) I can remember.

GREG CLARKE, Football Association chairman, on the swelling number of players alleging child sexual abuse.

CHILLING MEMORIES

It was pure, unbelievable heartache... He had groomed us for a couple of years and he thought it was normal.

DEREK BELL, who was scared to speak up as a youth player in the 1970s.

Former Newcastle player Derek Bell, the latest to waive his anonymity to The Guardian, claimed he was subjected to "horrendous" sexual abuse at his local boys' football club in the 1970s.

"It was pure, unbelievable heartache. Thinking my mum and dad were next door and he was performing these sexual acts. He had groomed us for a couple of years and he thought it was normal," the 52-year-old said.

"Deep down in my mind I knew it wasn't normal, but I was so scared to speak and come out and say it wasn't right."

The FA has also launched its own internal review appointing leading lawyer Kate Gallafent, an expert in child protection, to head it.

The British government announced on Tuesday it will bring the police and the FA together for a meeting on the developing scandal.

"It's certainly the biggest (crisis) I can remember," Clarke said.

"I think the moral consequences of failing to deal with some of these issues in the past we must get to the bottom of."

Former world darts champion and Englishman Eric Bristow has spoken up in relation to the football scandal, though not in the nicest of ways.

The 59-year-old has since apologised for a number of offensive tweets he sent, which have also cost him his job as a regular contributor to darts coverage at Sky Sports.

He wrote on Twitter: "Might be a looney but if some football coach was touching me when I was a kid as I got older I would have went back and sorted that poof out."

Another tweet read: "Dart players tough guys footballers wimps".

In a heated interview with Piers Morgan on ITV's Good Morning Britain yesterday, Bristow defended his tweets, saying he was trying to encourage children to report abuse immediately.

"I want youngsters now to go out and complain straight away. There's no point complaining 30 years later," he said.

Bristow then accepted that he had caused offence.

"It was worded wrong. I apologise, it was a miswording. They are not wimps," he explained.

Bristow was previously a victim of dartitis - a debilitating psychological condition that ruined his career when he could not release the dart for fear of missing.

The British media have suggested that he should be one who would understand psychological trauma instead of making such comments.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2016, with the headline 'Ex-coach charged as abuse probe Widens'. Print Edition | Subscribe