Soccer’s apex body in the U.K., the Football Association, says it is launching an investigation into multiple allegations of sex abuse, and has appointed a lawyer with experience in such cases to oversee the claims.
According to the BBC, four police forces are also investigating the allegations made by more than 20 former players, who say they were abused many years ago when they were coming up through the ranks as youth players.
Many of the allegations center around ex-youth soccer coach Barry Bennell, who was jailed for nine years in 1998 after pleading guilty to 23 charges of sexual abuse of children, according to British broadcaster ITV.
The head of the Professional Footballers’ Association, Gordon Taylor, told the BBC that teams connected to the inquiry included the English Premier League clubs Manchester City, Stoke, Newcastle and others.
Allegations against Bennell emerged when former Crewe player Andy Woodward, now 43, revealed to the Guardian the several years of abuse he suffered at Bennell’s hands, after the former coach scouted him at the age of 11. Woodward told the Guardian he suspects “potentially hundreds” may have suffered similar abuse.
Several other former youth players have made accusations against Bennell, including former national English player David White. However, the New York Times reports that allegations have been widening, with ex-England and Liverpool player Paul Stewart saying that he was abused by another coach for several years.
The Guardian reports that 62-year-old Bennell was taken to a hospital after police responded to a “fear for welfare” call last Friday and found him unconscious.