Football sex abuse claims: More former players speak out

Four ex-footballers have appeared together in an emotional interview to tell of their torment after being abused as children by a coach.

Andy Woodward, who was the first to go public last week, wept as Chris Unsworth and Jason Dunford spoke for the first time of being abused by ex-Crewe Alexandra coach Barry Bennell.

Mr Unsworth said he “never told a soul” that he was raped up to 100 times.

Cheshire Police said allegations have been made against more than one person.

Barry Bennell, 62, has served three jail sentences for child sex offences.

Since Mr Woodward’s story emerged, several ex-players have made allegations about being sexually abused by coaches as children – a number of them by Bennell, who is currently living in Milton Keynes.

A dedicated NSPCC hotline – 0800 023 2642 – was set up after the abuse claims came to light and has received more than 100 calls.

Cheshire Police said it had received a “growing number of disclosures” which included referrals from the children’s charity and allegations have been made “against more than one individual”.

The prime minister’s spokesman commended the former footballers for their bravery in speaking out and said the allegations deserved to be treated with “full seriousness”.

Mr Unsworth, 44, said he had decided to waive his right to anonymity after his girlfriend showed him an interview on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme with ex-Crewe player Mr Woodward, 43.

Mr Unsworth told Victoria Derbyshire on Friday: “I thought I’ve got to come forward… and help everybody.”

He had been a youth player at Manchester City with Bennell before moving to Crewe with him when he was about 12 in the mid-1980s.

He said he had stayed at Bennell’s house several times and Bennell sometimes had two or three boys in the bed at once, where he would abuse them.

“We never spoke to each other about it,” Mr Unsworth said. “I was raped between 50 and 100 times.”

He said he had been nine years old when the abuse started.

“I knew what I wanted to get [from football], and I thought this is what I had to go through. I knew it was wrong but I just went with it,” he said.

He left football aged 16 and became a professional golfer. He has now spoken to Cheshire Police and is waiting to be interviewed by them.

Mr Unsworth said: “Both my parents have died and that hurts me, not telling them. I don’t know if it was a good thing… because they would have blamed themselves”.

‘Deathly stare’

Mr Dunford said he had been staying at a Butlins holiday camp after winning a football competition, when Bennell attempted to touch him in bed.

He said: “I told him to eff off, I remember physically hitting him.”

Though Bennell did not retaliate, Mr Dunford said he would never forget Bennell’s “deathly stare”.

Mr Dunford said that after that Bennell began to “torment” him – “dropping me from the team, telling me I would play, but on the Sunday dropping me again”.

Jason Dunford
.Jason Dunford said he had hit Bennell

Mr Dunford left the Manchester City nursery team, as it was known then, and moved to different boys’ teams. At one point, he said, another coach also attempted to abuse him.

He said: “He had me and two others over to stay the night before a game, and we all stayed in the same bed.

“He started to touch me. I pushed his hand away.

“Later I woke up and the coach was touching one of the other boys.”

Mr Dunford has now given a report to the police.

Neither player turned professional, in part because they felt Bennell drove them away from the game.

‘Weight off shoulders’

Bennell, who also worked as a youth football scout, was jailed in 1998 for nine years and also served a four-year sentence in the United States.

In 2015, he was given a two-year term for sexually abusing a boy at a training camp in Macclesfield, but is now out of prison.

Cheshire Police said 11 people had come forward since Mr Woodward spoke out, including fellow ex-Crewe player Steve Walters, 44, who said he had been abused by Bennell, when he was 13 or 14, during a trip to Anglesey.

He told Victoria Derbyshire he had been inconsolable after reading Mr Woodward’s story.

“I was so angry and upset, but it was like a hundred tons lifted off my shoulders,” he said.

Mr Walters said more people needed to come forward, particularly “high-profile team mates who are out there”.

“I want justice now,” he said. “The whole of football just needs ripping apart and this can never, ever happen to any young footballer again.

‘I always denied it’

“My name was always mentioned by other people who thought I’d been abused, so police asked me three times, but I always denied it.

“I thought I still had a chance of football, which is why I kept saying it didn’t happen.”

Dario Gradi, who was Crewe Alexandra’s manager for more than 24 years and is now their director of football and academy director, offered “sympathy to the victims of Barry Bennell”.

He said he had first known of Bennell’s crimes when the coach was arrested in the US in 1994.

David White, Paul Stewart & Andy Woodward
.Former England internationals David White (L) and Paul Stewart (C) are among those to have spoken about abuse since Andy Woodward’s story emerged

In 2001, the Football Association put in place new rules to protect children, requiring adult and junior teams at all levels to have a trained safeguarding or welfare officer.

But former FA chief executive Mark Palios said high-profile clubs were “more easily regulated” than grassroots clubs, which rely largely on volunteer workers who are more difficult to direct.

Some critics say the regulations rely too much on children being able to report abuse.

‘No cover-up’

Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, which represents players, said the PFA and the FA had been aware of rumours of abuse.

But he said: “No complaints were made at all – it’s become apparent that they [the victims] didn’t even tell their families.

“There was no cover-up, no wall of silence. Andy Woodward took two years of therapy to come out [about being abused].”

MP Damian Collins, the chairman of the culture, media and sport committee, said the industry should question if people “turned their gaze from it because the problem seemed so difficult”.

He said it would be extremely difficult for young players to speak out against their revered coaches, who guide their future careers.

Credit bbc sports