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Former football coach Barry Bennell charged with child abuse

football Updated: Nov 30, 2016 12:28 IST
Highlight Story

In this June 23, 1995 photo, former English football coach and recruiter Barry Bennell appears in a Duval County courtroom in Jacksonville, Fla. Bennell, who was convicted on three separate occasions for abusing youngsters, was reportedly taken to a hospital on Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. Bennell was convicted in 1995, 1998 and 2015. But over the last two weeks, there has been a renewed focus on Bennell as former professional players have publicly discussed the abuse they suffered. (AP)

Former 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, who it was revealed on Monday had to be hospitalised when he was found unconscious in a hotel near London, will appear in court on December 14.

The latest charges stem from Cheshire Police but six other police forces are investigating accusations made against Bennell in a scandal Football Association Chairman Greg Clarke has called “the greatest crisis” in English football he could recall.

It was pure, unbelievable heartache. Thinking my mam and dad were next door and he was performing these sexual acts. Deep down in my mind I knew it wasn’t normal, but I was scared to come out and say it wasn’t right.

Former Newcastle player Derek Bell, who waived 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 mam 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,” Bell 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.”

Former Northern Ireland international Mark Williams spoke out, with Sky News revealing he had waived his anonymity to describe his torment.

“My life has been affected irreversibly both personally and professionally and it has been soul-destroying to carry this burden for 30 years,” he said.

Police Scotland have also confirmed they have launched a probe following abuse allegations north of the border.

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

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

Clarke took over as FA chairman in August and has already had to deal with the removal of Sam Allardyce as England coach over comments he made in a newspaper sting and the ‘poppygate’ row with FIFA.

Unacceptable

He told Sky News it was time to finally deal with the issues after they had been ignored.

“It’s certainly the biggest (crisis) I can remember,” said Clarke.

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

Clarke doesn’t know if the FA at the time deliberately turned a blind eye to the goings on although a reporter who made a documentary about sex abuse in football for Channel Four in 1997 has claimed there is a FA report from 2005 detailing 250 victims and spread over a number of clubs.

“I don’t know if there was a cover-up or not, I really don’t know,” said Clarke.

“I suspect like many big problems, people aren’t drawn towards them. My methodology is, if there’s a problem, run towards it, embrace it, fix it, disclose everything that happened.

“I think institutionally, all organisations in the old days used to protect themselves by keeping quiet and closing ranks.

“That’s completely inappropriate and unacceptable today.”

Clarke told the BBC the FA review would not seek to speak to alleged victims nor would he confer with his predecessors as chairman.

“We’ve agreed with the police that we won’t talk to any of the victims formally, because they have to talk to them, they have to take statements and we’re not allowed to interfere in that process,” said Clarke.

Meanwhile, Chelsea announced they have retained an external law firm to carry out an investigation concerning an individual employed by the club in the 1970s, who is now dead.

“The club has contacted the FA to ensure that all possible assistance is provided as part of their wider investigation,” a Chelsea statement read.

“This will include providing the FA with any relevant information arising out of the club’s investigation.”