By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)
The FA is facing its biggest crisis yet with reports that 83 potential suspects and 98 teams are involved in the inquiry into historic child sexual abuse in English football.
The National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) has continued to receive further calls with the NPCC stating that the investigations have spanned from professional football all the way to amateur level. A total of 639 referrals had been received from the helpline set up by the children’s charity the NSPCC, and directly from police forces. The NPCC’s lead for child protection said the allegations were “being swiftly acted upon” by police.
Shaun Harvey, chief executive of the English Football League, admitted that the recent reports could start a dip in participation in the sport. Harvey added: “The historic allegations that have come out are a concern to everybody and may well affect the thought process of some parents putting young players into academies.”
Gordon Smith, former chief executive of the Scottish Football Association (SFA), has called for an inquiry into this historical sexual abuse. His comments came after Partick Thistle confirmed that a physiotherapist was dismissed from Firhill in 1992. Smith talked about his disgust regarding these revelations, saying: “Obviously there’s people who were committing the offences. They are a disgrace and hopefully they’re going to be found out legally and charged. There’s the kids who suffered from it who are now adults who obviously got great psychological and traumatic effects of it.”
Despite Smith’s call, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has refused to widen Scotland’s inquiry into historical sexual abuse to include football clubs. Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon said: “To widen the remit of that inquiry would mean that it would take perhaps many years longer to conclude its investigations and would risk it becoming completely unwieldy.”
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale criticised Sturgeon, saying that the inquiry should cover “all survivors” of abuse.
The news has shaken the football world as countless footballers have came forward to tell of their experiences with sexual abuse, starting with former Crewe, Bury and Sheffield United player Andy Woodward, 43, who told the Guardian on November 16 he was sexually abused as a youth player.