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Football sexual abuse scandal

The football sexual abuse scandal involved revelations about a number of former coaches and scouts accused of the sexual abuse of children. Former football scout, Barry Bennell, was convicted of abusing 12 boys between 1979 and 1991. Slater and Gordon represented several of his victims in their fight for justice.

25 March 2021

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In approximately November 2016 revelations into an abuse scandal began when former football professionals waived their rights to anonymity and talked about the abuse they'd suffered by football coaches when they were children. Former football talent scout, Barry Bennell, was one of those accused

Bennell was convicted of abusing 12 boys aged eight to 15 between 1979 and 1991 and is currently serving a 31 year sentence for 50 counts of child sexual abuse. He preyed upon young boys, who dreamt of becoming professional footballers, in his role as a talent scout for players to play in the professional clubs. If the boys didn’t comply with his demands, he told them that their football careers would suffer.

It was only when the boys became adults that they came to realise what they suffered was in fact, sexual abuse and they sought justice by bravely speaking out about their traumatic experiences as children. 

It was incredibly difficult for the men who were abused as children to share their stories so that others might find the same courage to step forward and speak about the abuse they'd suffered. For some, it was the first time they’d spoken about their experiences to their own families.

Former professional footballer, Andy Woodward, first reported Bennell's abuse in 2016 when he was 43 years old. He was just aged 11 years' old when abused by Bennell. Andy's bravery in coming forward empowered hundreds more victims to come forward and as a result, there were multiple police investigations and convictions. The Football Association also set up the Sheldon inquiry.

Kim Harrison, one of the leading experts in sports abuse, represents over 40 football abuse survivors acting against several football clubs following abuse by a number of coaches and scouts across the UK. She acts for several of Bennell’s victims in their fight for justice through the civil compensation process and also the Manchester City Football Club Survivors Redress Scheme.

The Sheldon inquiry's independent report, carried out by Clive Sheldon, was recently completed and found the FA culpable of "institutional failure" at its delay in introducing safeguarding for children after 1995 when Barry Bennell and some high-profile abusers in other sports had already been prosecuted and convicted.

Kim Harrison has appeared in the press several times recently, speaking on behalf of her clients in response to Clive Sheldon's report and once again highlighting the need for mandatory reporting.

In cases such as these, that have come to light in recent years, there were many children being abused in institutions where it's likely adults knew or suspected abuse was happening but didn’t speak out and report their suspicions and concerns. This needs to change.  There's currently no law that suspicions of abuse need to be reported to the police or social services.  This puts children at risk.

Slater and Gordon have long argued for there to be a mandatory reporting law in place for anyone who knows about any abuse taking place to be legally obligated to report it so that it can be properly investigated sooner rather than later. Had such mandatory reporting legislation been in place and applied to sports clubs in the 80s and 90s, Bennell may have been stopped sooner.

If you’d like confidential advice from one of our abuse experts, please contact us.

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