PFA chief urges probe into sex abuse claims

LONDON • Gordon Taylor, the head of the footballers' union in England and Wales, has called for the game's authorities to launch a full investigation into the revelations of historical sexual abuse of child players.

David White, the former Manchester City striker who won one England cap in 1992, has become the fourth former professional to disclose that he was abused by a coach while still a youth footballer.

"Given recent press stories, I wish to confirm that I was sexually abused by my former football coach Barry Bennell in the late 70s and early 80s," he said.

Andy Woodward, the former Crewe Alexandra, Bury and Sheffield United player who first waived his anonymity on Wednesday last week, believes that a paedophile ring was operating in north-west England during the 1970s and 1980s.

Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), said that he was "deeply concerned" by the players saying that more than one coach was involved in the abuse.

"Not forgetting these are criminal acts and that the police need to be at the forefront of any investigation, I believe we need an inclusive inquiry by all football's stakeholders - the FA (Football Association), EFL (English Football League), Premier League, the League Managers' Association and the PFA," he said.

"Even if it is just one perpetrator, it is serious but, if it was more widespread and rumours were not acted upon at the time, then we need to know why.

"We also need to make sure that all the necessary protective measures for children are in place now."

The PFA has been in touch with Woodward and Steve Walters - who have said that they were abused by the former Crewe youth coach, Bennell - to organise counselling.

Another former England player, Paul Stewart, has said that he suffered at the hands of a different coach - but one with links to Bennell.

Bennell was jailed for nine years in 1998 after pleading guilty to sexual offences against young boys.

He was also imprisoned for two years in May last year for a historic sexual offence against a boy and has spent time in jail in the United States.

The FA is cooperating with police - 11 people have contacted the Cheshire force about abuse this week. A helpline has been set up for former players to report abuse and more victims are expected to step forward.

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2016, with the headline 'PFA chief urges probe into sex abuse claims'. Print Edition | Subscribe