All five London EPL clubs 'referenced' in sex abuse saga

Former footballer and victim of abuse Andy Woodward poses after a press conference at the launch of The Offside Trust in Manchester.
Former footballer and victim of abuse Andy Woodward poses after a press conference at the launch of The Offside Trust in Manchester.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • Allegations of historical sex abuse have been made involving all five London clubs in the English Premier League, the capital city's Metropolitan Police Service announced on Monday.

The five clubs swept up in the scandal that has rocked English football since former Crewe Alexandra youth player Andy Woodward went public in November last year are Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Crystal Palace and West Ham.

In all, the Met said the allegations involved 77 London-based clubs - three in the second tier Championship and three in League One and League Two - and have received 255 allegations of sex abuse.

Detective Chief Superintendent Ivan Balhatchet of the Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command, said that each and every one of the allegations will be looked into but the Met would not be supplying a running commentary on the investigations or how many allegations have been made against a particular club.

"The Met take all allegations seriously, and specialist officers will work through the information passed to them," he said.

Overall, 248 football clubs were included in the inquiry, according to figures released by the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) earlier this month.

The NPCC were at pains to point out that does not mean they are under investigation but have been "referenced when information is submitted".

The number of alleged victims stands at 526 with the youngest aged four and 97 per cent of them are male, while 184 potential suspects have been identified.

Not all the alleged victims or perpetrators come from football, with 10 other sports implicated, including rugby, gymnastics, martial arts and athletics.

The scandal blew up last November when Woodward went public over the abuse by a convicted child molester at Crewe Alexandra.

Other ex-professional players have since gone public with several coming from Chelsea - in an era well before present owner Roman Abramovich bought the club - claiming to have been abused by scout Eddie Heath in the 1970s.

England football icon David Beckham labelled the historical sex abuse scandal a "disgrace".

Beckham was part of a legendary Manchester United youth team which included future stars like Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers Gary and Phil.

"There was never anything like that," said the 41-year-old, capped 115 times and captain of his country on 59 occasions.

"The closest we ever came to that was when certain professionals in the senior team would make us do a funny dance in front of our heroes at the time. It was humiliation but that was just to teach us a lesson.

"I would like to think clubs are all on board with this and the FA (Football Association) are doing all they can and the more these ex-professionals express their opinions there will be more done."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2017, with the headline 'All five London EPL clubs 'referenced' in sex abuse saga'. Print Edition | Subscribe