Six people contact police after ex-Sheffield United player admits he was sexually abused

Six people have contacted the police after a former Sheffield United player admitted he was sexually abused by a coach.

Tuesday, 22nd November 2016, 10:32 am
Updated Tuesday, 22nd November 2016, 12:06 pm
Andy Woodward

Former Sheffield United player Andy Woodward disclosed last week that he was abused by coach Barry Bennell while at Crewe Alexandra between the ages of 11 and 15.

Bennell was jailed for nine years in 1998 after pleading guilty to sexual offences against six boys.

Ex-defender Woodward, now 43, said he had been raped on hundreds of occasions and that he feared other players had suffered at the hands of the man who once had a reputation for being one of the country's best coaches and talent spotters.

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In an interview with The Guardian, Woodward said: "My life has been ruined until the age of 43, but how many others are there?

"I'm talking about hundreds of children who Barry Bennell cherry-picked for various football teams and who now, as adults, might still be living with that awful fear."

Acting Detective Sergeant Ben Hilton, of Cheshire Police's public protection unit, said: "As of Monday, November 21 we have been made aware of six other people who have come forward wishing to speak to the police.

"We are currently in the process of making contact with the six people, and at this stage no-one else is under investigation.

"Cheshire Constabulary takes all reports of sexual offences extremely seriously and has specialist trained officers to provide advice and support."

Sue Ravenlaw, head of equality and safeguarding at the Football Association, said she applauded Woodward's courage to speak out.

She said: "Reading Andy Woodward's story was heartbreaking and we applaud his immense courage in coming forward to speak about the horrific abuse he suffered.

"Barry Bennell remains permanently suspended from football, in line with our procedures.

"The FA takes all matters of safeguarding and child protection seriously and we encourage anyone who may have experienced or is experiencing abuse in football to contact the NSPCC's confidential 24-hour helpline on 0808 800 5000 or Childline for children and young people on 0800 1111."