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Football Association appoints independent legal counsel in historical child abuse allegations

NewsBy Neil Fetherston
Andy Woodward
Andy Woodward

The Football Association has appointed an independent legal counsel, Kate Gallafent QC, to assist its review into historical child abuse allegations.

Ms Gallafent will oversee the association’s internal review into claims of sexual abuse made by a growing number of former youth footballers.

The FA suggested a fully-fledged inquiry may follow but the initial review would explore “what information the FA was aware of at the relevant times around the issues that have been raised in the press, what clubs were aware of, and what action was or should have been taken.”

Ms Gallafent will then provide recommendations “to ensure these situations can never be repeated”.

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

Bennell, who worked for Crewe, Manchester City, Stoke and junior teams in north-west England and the Midlands, abused young boys from the 1970s onwards. He was jailed for four years for raping a British boy on a 1994 football tour of Florida, and given a nine-year sentence for 23 offences against six boys in England in 1998.

He was jailed for a third time in 2015 after admitting abusing a boy at a 1980 football camp in Macclesfield.

The Guardian reported that an unnamed former Newcastle United player had also contacted police with allegations against George Ormond, a North East coach jailed for six years in 2002 for carrying out numerous assaults spanning 24 years.

A “significant” number of other alleged victims of abuse are likely to come forward and other sporting governing bodies may report similar problems, said Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for child protection.