Police have revealed around 350 people have come forward to report allegations of child sexual abuse within the football community in the UK.
The figures, compiled by forces and including referrals to a specially set up helpline, were released in a statement Thursday.
Simon Bailey, the lead for child protection on the national police council, says he fully expects those numbers to change in the coming weeks
“It is important to note that this is an indicative figure only, and that information is still being collated, numbers will, therefore, continue to change,” Chief Constable Simon Bailey said.
“We are working closely with the Football Association to ensure that the response to this significant and growing number of victims, at all levels of football, is coordinated effectively.
On Thursday, Greater Manchester Police confirmed that it had identified 10 suspects and was investigating reports from 35 victims.
“We have received a number of calls from victims and those with concerns and on a daily basis the investigation is growing,” Assistant Chief Constable Debbie Ford said in a statement.
Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn said Thursday he thought it was unlikely there had been an organized attempt to “cover up” child sexual abuse in football.
He also promised to investigate reports claiming that some clubs may have paid off alleged victims to buy their silence on the matter.
“We’ve committed to a full review, shining the light on what happened in the past in football,” he told reporters at a press conference
“We have clear rules in the game and if there’s any evidence of a breach of those — and hushing up would be one — subject to due process, the police need to be at the right place in this, when it’s our turn to apply the rules we absolutely will, regardless of size of club.”
When questioned about the possible existence of non-disclosure agreements and gagging orders, Glenn added: “I can’t say if there has been a cover-up in the game [but] I doubt it.”
A hotline set up to help victims of the child sex abuse scandal that has rocked English football, has received 860 calls for help in its first week.
The service, set up and monitored by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), says its staff made 60 referrals to the police and social services in the first three days alone.
“The number of high profile footballers bravely speaking out about their ordeal has rightly caught the attention of the entire country,” NSPCC chief executive Paul Wanless said.
“We’ve had a staggering surge in calls to our football helpline which reveals the worrying extent of abuse that had been going on within the sport,” he added.
“Anyone who wants to contact us can do so in confidence, with the knowledge they will be listened to and supported. In future footballers — both young players and former athletes — must have the confidence to open up about sexual abuse and feel able to come forward.”
The number of players coming forward has increased in recent days. A former Newcastle United forward, David Eatock, became the latest to tell police he was sexually abused during his time at the club.
In an interview with the Guardian, Eatock alleges two incidents involving former coach George Ormond, who was sentenced to six years in 2002 for a number of offenses committed over nearly 25 years.
Another former Newcastle player, Derek Bell, also claims he was abused by Ormond, during his spell at the club.
More forces involved
Sixteen police forces across England, Scotland and Wales are investigating allegations of historical child sex abuse within the football community.
On Tuesday, Chelsea said it had started an investigation into allegations concerning an individual who worked at the club during the 1970s but is now deceased.
England’s Football Association (FA) launched an internal investigation into the allegations last Sunday after more than 20 players came forward alleging abuse in their youth, according to England’s Professional Footballers Association (PFA).
The internal investigation — led by lawyer Kate Gallafent — will focus on what the FA and individual clubs knew at the time of the alleged abuses and “what action was or should have been taken,” the English governing body statement said.