A report published by Clive Sheldon QC today looked into evidence of offences committed between 1970 and 2005.
It uncovered 690 survivors of abuse at the hands of 240 suspects, but warned that the actual figure could be much higher due to the pressure still felt by those affected to remain tight-lipped about their experiences.
The report was commissioned in 2016 after Andy Woodward broke his own silence about abuse he suffered from Barry Bennell, currently in prison on a four-year sentence.
It found that while the issue was a general problem in sport until 1995, the conviction of swimming coach Paul Hickson for two rape offences should have provoked more of a reaction from a governing body like the FA – although it admitted that other sports “can also be criticised for their responses”.
It was only in 2000 that they set up their child-protection programme set up, which while highly regarded, was still guilty in the eyes of the report of a number of mistakes, not least failing to ban Bennell following his arrest and another serial offender Bob Higgins, whose trial had collapsed in 1992 but would still have fallen short of new standards introduced in 2003.
Higgins was jailed for 24 years in 2019.
Going forward, Sheldon has recommended a Safeguarding Champion be nominated on the FA board, with full-time salaried safeguarding officers all at league clubs if possible, or at least a 50% part-time role for clubs in Leagues 1 and 2.
He would also like to see an annual report and National Day of Safeguarding in Football marked every year in the fixture calendar.
The FA are set to respond to the report’s findings later this afternoon.
Eight clubs named
Eight clubs have been mentioned specifically for historic “failings” in the Independent Review into Child Sexual Abuse in Football released today.
Clive Sheldon QC was asked to look into the wider issues in the game from 1970 to 2005 after Andy Woodward spoke publicly in October 2016 about abuse suffered at the hands of Barry Burnell.
After a four-year investigation, the report found “institutional failings” within the FA, but also pointed the finger at eight clubs who could have done more to recognise and act on signs that abuse was occurring.
CHELSEA (in or around 1975) should have taken steps to protect the young play who reported abuse by Eddie Heath. Heath was never investigated but died in 1993.
ASTON VILLA (July 1989) should have told police about sexual abuse disclosures when they sacked Ted Langford as a scout.
NEWCASTLE (1997) should have responded more quickly to disclosures of abuse by George Ormond. He was permitted to travel abroad with young players before being removed by the club many months later. Ormond was jailed for 20 years in 2018.
MANCHESTER CITY (early 1980s) Senior management were aware of concerns about Barry Bennell’s conduct but did not investigate him or arrangement for boys to stay at his house.
CREWE No evidence of club keeping a “watching brief” on Bennell as advised by police. Likely three directors of the club had concerns and if they had taken any steps boys may have made more disclosures at the time.
STOKE (early 1990) Club was also aware of rumours about Bennell but did not take steps to monitor his activities.
PETERBOROUGH and SOUTHAMPTON Clubs were aware of rumours about Bob Higgins’ inappropriate behaviour but failed to monitor him adequately.