UK:Football sex abuse claims increase

UK:Football sex abuse claims increase

BBC:-Four ex-footballers have appeared together in an emotional interview to tell of their torment after being abused as children by a coach.

Andy Woodward, who was the first to go public last week, wept as Chris Unsworth and Jason Dunford spoke for the first time of being abused by ex-Crewe Alexandra coach Barry Bennell.

Mr Unsworth said he “never told a soul” that he was raped up to 100 times.

Barry Bennell, 62, has served three jail sentences for child sex offences.

Bennell, who also worked as a youth football scout, was jailed in 1998 for nine years and also served a four-year sentence in the United States.

In 2015, he was given a two-year term for sexually abusing a boy at a training camp in Macclesfield, but is now out of prison.

Several ex-players have spoken out, making allegations about being sexually abused by coaches as children.

A dedicated NSPCC hotline – 0800 023 2642 – set up after the abuse claims came to light, received more than 50 calls within its first two hours.

Mr Unsworth, 44 said he had decided to waive his right to anonymity and speak out after his girlfriend showed him an interview on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme with ex-Crewe player Mr Woodward.

Mr Woodward, 43, was the first player to say he had been abused by Bennell last week.

Mr Unsworth told Victoria Derbyshire: “I thought I’ve got to come forward, got to come forward and help everybody.”

He was initially a youth player at Manchester City with Bennell and then moved to Crewe with him when he was about 12.

He said he had stayed at Bennell’s house several times and Bennell sometimes had two or three boys in the bed at once, where he would abuse them.

“We never spoke to each other about it,” Mr Unsworth said. “I was raped between 50 and 100 times.”

He said he was nine years old when the abuse started.

“I didn’t know what was going on to be fair – I knew what I wanted to get, and I thought this is what I had to go through. I knew it was wrong but I just went with it,” he said.

He left football aged 16 and became a professional golfer. He has now spoken to Cheshire Police and is waiting to be interviewed by them.

Mr Unsworth said: “Both my parents have died and that hurts me, not telling them. I don’t know if it was a good thing… because they would have blamed themselves”.

Mr Dunford, who has also waived his right to anonymity, said he had been staying at a Butlins holiday camp after winning a football competition, when Bennell attempted to touch him in bed.

He said: “I told him to eff off, I remember physically hitting him”.

Though Bennell did not retaliate, Mr Dunford said he would never forget Bennell’s “deathly stare”.

Mr Dunford said that after that, “Bennell began to torment me – dropping me from the team, telling me I would play, but on the Sunday dropping me again”.

Mr Dunford left the Manchester City nursery team, as it was known then, and moved to different boys’ teams. At one point, he said, another coach also attempted to abuse him.

He said: “He had me and two others over to stay the night before a game, and we all stayed in the same bed.

“He started to touch me in the night. I pushed his hand away.

“Later I woke up again, and the coach was touching one of the other boys.”

Mr Dunford left that club two weeks after this alleged abuse. He has now given a report to the police.

Neither player turned professional, in part because they felt Bennell drove them away from the game.

Cheshire Police said 11 people had come forward after Mr Woodward spoke out, including his fellow ex-Crewe player Steve Walters, 44, who said he had been abused by Bennell, when he was 13 or 14, during a trip to Anglesey.

He said he was inconsolable after reading Mr Woodward’s story.

“I was so angry and upset, but it was like a hundred tons lifted off my shoulders,” he said.

“My career’s been ruined, relationships have been ruined… People say ‘what happened to you Steve?'”

Mr Walters said more people needed to come forward, particularly “high-profile team mates who are out there”.

“I want justice now,” he said.

Mr Walters said he had seen counsellors and “struggles with nightmares and sleeping problems”.

“My name was always mentioned by other people who thought I’d been abused, so police asked me three times, but I always denied it,” he said.

“I thought I still had a chance of football, which is why I kept saying it didn’t happen.”

Dario Gradi, who was Crewe Alexandra’s manager for more than 24 years and is now its director of football and academy director, has offered “sympathy to the victims of Barry Bennell” and said he had first known of his crimes when Bennell was arrested in the United States in 1994.

England captain Wayne Rooney, who is also a NSPCC ambassador, has urged other players to come forward following the charity’s hotline launch.

Manchester City said it had opened an investigation amid allegations that Bennell had an association with the club in the 1980s.

 

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