OFFICERS from a Yorkshire police force have become involved in the investigation into allegations of historical child sex abuse in football as Home Secretary Amber Rudd called for a radical overhaul in tackling the growing problem.
North Yorkshire Police is now among more than a quarter of the UK’s forces which are involved in the inquiry which has plunged the sport into crisis.
The NSPCC revealed that referrals from calls to a dedicated football abuse hotline more than tripled the amount made in the first three days of the Jimmy Savile scandal.
Launched on Wednesday last week to support the victims of child sex abuse in football, the charity said more than 860 calls had been made to the helpline in its first seven days.
And Ms Rudd has claimed police investigating child sex abuse should be licensed in a similar way to doctors to ensure consistent standards across the country. The Home Secretary’s comments during her first address to the College of Policing conference come amid the growing inquiry into sex abuse in youth football, which she said showed the issue was “not going away”.
The conference theme this year is vulnerability, which Ms Rudd described as one of the “most pressing issues” facing police forces. The College of Policing, the professional body for police officers, will be given £1.9m to fund a licence to practise pilot scheme.
More than 20 ex-players have now spoken out about alleged abuse, including former Newcastle United midfielder Derek Bell, who waived his anonymity to BBC 5 Live. He said he was sexually assaulted when he played for a local boys’ club in the 1970s, and, after seeing his abuser again more than 20 years after the offences, decided to try to kill him.
“I went to his house with a 12-inch knife hidden in my pocket, and I kicked his door in,” Mr Bell said. “Luckily for him, that evening, he wasn’t in.”
His abuser was eventually jailed after Mr Bell took a covert tape recording of his attacker explaining his actions to the police.
As the Football Association begins its own review, North Yorkshire Police confirmed yesterday it is investigating “non-recent sexual abuse allegations” under the national inquiry.
The Avon and Somerset, Essex and Norfolk forces also announced they are investigating claims, bringing the current tally to 14. Dorset, Staffordshire, Greater Manchester, North Wales, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire, Cheshire, Northumbria, Scotland Yard and Police Scotland have also launched inquiries.
The national child abuse inquiry headed by Professor Alexis Jay is considering whether to investigate abuse in football as part of its overarching probe.
The scandal emerged when ex-Sheffield United player Andy Woodward claimed he was repeatedly assaulted by former Crewe Alexandra coach Barry Bennell – prompting a string of other footballers to speak out about the alleged abuse they had suffered.