Football sex abuse scandal ‘now even bigger than Savile probe’

From left: Jason Dunford, Steve Walters, host Victoria Derbyshire, Chris Unsworth, Andy Woodward speaking to BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme.
From left: Jason Dunford, Steve Walters, host Victoria Derbyshire, Chris Unsworth, Andy Woodward speaking to BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme.
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THE SCALE of the scandal engulfing professional football over allegations of sexual abuse against young players was said today to be even bigger than that which followed the death of Jimmy Savile.

Jason Dunford, a former Manchester City youth team player, alleged that a paedophile ring was operating in the sport and was covered up as part of a conspiracy.

Mr Dunford, who waived his right to anonymity, spoke out as police revealed they had received allegations against more than one person.

A string of former footballers have come forward since Andy Woodward became the first to speak out publicly last week about abuse he suffered at the hands of convicted child abuser Barry Bennell, a former Crewe Alexandra coach.

Cheshire Police said “a growing number of disclosures” had been made to the force. They include some from the NSPCC, which this week set up a dedicated hotline for football-related cases.

A Cheshire Police spokesman said: “These have included allegations made against more than one individual.”

Mr Dunford said he had been staying at a Butlin’s holiday camp after winning a football competition when Bennell attempted to touch him in bed. He said: “I believe there was a conspiracy and paedophile ring. There were people at those clubs who had a duty to look after boys coming through their system.”

He added of the Yorkshire disc jockey who was unmasked as a serial sex abuser following his death in 2011: “I think Savile looks like a choirboy compared to this fella.”

Chris Unsworth, 44, a former Crewe youngster, has also made allegations against Bennell and claimed the club turned a blind eye, telling BBC host Victoria Derbyshire it was “swept under the carpet”.

Ex-England and Manchester City players David White and Paul Stewart and former Crewe Alexandra player Steve Walters have also spoken out about being sexually abused by football coaches as children.

The NSPCC hotline, set up in response to the widening scandal, received 50 calls within the first two hours of its launch.

Bennell, who worked for Crewe, Manchester City, Stoke and several junior teams in north-west England and the Midlands, sexually abused young boys across three decades from the 1970s onwards.

He was given a four-year sentence for raping a British boy on a football tour of Florida in 1994 and then a nine-year sentence for 23 offences against six boys in England in 1998.

He was jailed for a third time in 2015 when he pleaded guilty to abusing a boy at a football camp in Macclesfield in 1980.

Crewe’s director of football, Dario Gradi, expressed sympathy to the victims of Bennell in a statement, and said the club would be carrying out an internal investigation. Manchester City said it was also reviewing Bennell’s links with the club.

An allegation by an unnamed former Newcastle United player that he was abused in the club’s youth system is also being investigated. Newcastle United said it would co-operate with authorities.