LONDON • Eight of the English professional football clubs contacted by the independent inquiry into the game's sexual abuse scandal have failed to respond, and risk disciplinary action unless they tell the investigators what they know.
The Football Association (FA) is ready to step in and has the power to impose sanctions if it considers the clubs who have failed to comply - missing two separate deadlines over the past four months and displaying a level of non-cooperation described as "deeply concerning" by one specialist child-abuse lawyer - are threatening to undermine the investigation.
The inquiry team wrote to every amateur and professional club in England and Wales on Jan 11, asking them to supply any information relating to the period covered by the review, from 1970 to 2005, and requesting this was done by March 15 at the latest.
However, the first phase of the investigation has been hindered by the difficulties they have encountered while waiting for a number of clubs to cooperate.
The clubs who did not respond within the initial two-month period were contacted a second time and informed that a new deadline had been imposed, for the end of April.
Suspects named for allegedly abusing children within English football.
Yet the fact that eight clubs still failed to meet that six-week extension has led to the FA being notified and leaves questions about whether there are still people within the sport who are unwilling to cooperate, despite FA chairman Greg Clarke emphasising the importance of transparency.
"The fact that clubs continue to ignore the FA inquiry and fail to cooperate is deeply concerning," said Dino Nocivelli, a lawyer who is representing a number of the former footballers. "It clearly shows their disregard for survivors of childhood sexual abuse within football and serious questions have to be asked as to the reasons why these clubs have decided not to engage."
The last available figures, released by the National Police Chiefs' Council on April 18, showed 560 people had come forward citing abuse and 252 suspects had been named since investigations began in November.
Around 23 per cent of the reported incidents - with 311 clubs named - related to the sport at professional level and Operation Hydrant, the specialist police unit investigating the matter, had received 1,432 referrals.
The inquiry, which will also look into girls' football, will examine any evidence of a possible network between the offenders.
The next stage of the inquiry will last several months and will focus on interviewing the survivors and key witnesses.