Football stands accused of failing hundreds of children in the biggest sexual abuse scandal ever to hit the sport.
The full horror has been revealed in a 710 page report which involved at least 692 victims, 240 suspects across 35 years and named eight clubs.
QC Clive Sheldon’s Independent Review into Child Sexual Abuse in Football between 1970 and 2005 also said there were Institutional failures at the FA “for which there is no excuse.”
Former football coach and serial paedophile Barry Bennell was the highest profile conviction as he has been jailed five times but the FA was criticised heavily for not putting in place child protection measures and failing to ban perpetrators.
The full report also names Chelsea, Aston Villa, Newcastle United, Manchester City, Crewe Alexandra, Stoke City, Peterborough United and Southampton as the clubs where there were failings despite suspicions being raised.
Sheldon said: “From what survivors have told me, there was a fear they, there was a fear they would not be believed, threats of violence against them or their families or that it would damage their careers.”
The failures at the clubs included:
Chelsea failed to take steps to protect a young player who had disclosed abuse from coach Eddie Heath in the mid-1970s.
Aston Villa should have reported disclosures about sexual abuse by scout Ted Langford to the police in 1989.
Newcastle should have acted more quickly following disclosures of abuse by coach George Ormond in 1997; Ormond was only removed from the club many months later after he had been permitted to travel abroad with young players.
Manchester City – senior management were aware of rumours and concerns about Bennell in the early 1980s but did not investigate.
Crewe – it is likely that three directors discussed concerns about Bennell which hinted at his sexual interest in children but took no action, or ensured that there were appropriate arrangements for boys staying overnight at his house.
Stoke – were aware of rumours about Bennell during his time associated with the Club in the early 1990s and steps should have been taken to monitor Bennell’s activities.
Peterborough were aware of rumours about Bob Higgins but took no steps.
Southampton were also aware of Higgins, and were aware that boys were staying at his home and should have monitored his actions.
Manchester City, Newcastle and Southampton all issued public apologies in the wake of the report while admitting various failings.
City instigated their own enquiry led by Jane Mulcahy QC and says the club has operated within required levels of safeguarding since the early 2000s.
Sheldon raised particular concerns about Crewe where Bennell had two different spells coaching and interviewed ex-Crewe boss Dario Gradi as part of his investigation.
Sheldon said that Gradi told him in an interview “that he did not consider a person putting their hands down another’s trousers to be an assault.” Gradi has been banned from football since 2016 and FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said the ban “absolutely remains in place.”
The enquiry also includes a letter from former FIFA president Sepp Blatter with a newspaper clipping on Bennell’s case and asking the FA whether it had any information on the case given that he had been convicted in the US in 1994 of raping a British boy while on a football tour.
But the FA failed to act and their former director of coaching Charles Hughes responded by saying: “We really have no further information in relation to this matter.”
Sheldon said: “The FA acted far too slowly to introduce appropriate and sufficient child protection measures, and to ensure that safeguarding was taken sufficiently seriously by those involved in the game.”
But former youth player Ian Ackley, who says he was raped hundreds of times by Bennell between 1979 and 1983, insisted the report was not strong enough.
“(Sheldon) could have been far more punchy and far braver,” said Ackley who descried the report as being as “dilute as Vimto for two-year-olds.”
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