Football child abuse inquiry finds no evidence of paedophile ring
The review into English football’s child sex abuse scandal is thought to have unearthed no evidence of a paedophile ring within the sport.
The investigative team, led by Clive Sheldon QC, is continuing to gather evidence ahead of the anticipated publication of its findings this autumn.
None of the 35-or-so players interviewed have described being the victim of more than one abuser. The possibility of an organised ring seems to be receding.
Serial abuser Barry Bennell was convicted of 36 child sex charges in February 2018
The conviction of serial abuser Barry Bennell on 36 child sex charges in February had given rise to fears that there may have been collusion between abusers.
Sportsmail revealed at the time that Bennell and abuser Frank Roper, who is now dead, coached a team together and took a group of boys to Blackpool and Wales.
The review, commissioned by the FA, is also thought to have found no evidence of an institutionalised cover-up of abuse in football.
Clubs and the FA are unlikely to be accused of working together in a concerted effort to avoid detection. Instead, the focus is understood to be on what individual clubs knew and what they did to cover their tracks and avoid detection.
Revelation of his crimes gave rise to fears there may have been collusion between abusers
L-R: Victims Micky Fallon, Steve Walters and Chris Unsworth give a statement to the media after Bennell’s sentencing at Liverpool Crown court
Chelsea are known to have entered into a non-disclosure agreement with former player Gary Johnson. Johnson was paid £50,000 to keep quiet about abuser Eddie Heath, who is now dead.
It remains unclear whether any of the individual investigations into abuse undertaken by between 10 and 12 clubs caught up in the scandal have thrown up any evidence of a web of abuse. Two of the most heavily implicated clubs, Manchester City and Chelsea, have mounted their own QC-led inquiries.
It is thought that the Sheldon inquiry team, who are examining how the FA and clubs dealt with the alleged abuse of schoolboy players between 1970 and 2005, are about to write to between 10 and 12 clubs named in the report telling them their conclusions.
The legal practice of letting those criticised in an official report to respond prior to publication means the clubs will have four weeks to state how, if at all, they believe Sheldon’s report must be changed.
Victim Chris Unsworth (checked jacket) is consoled following the sentencing of Bennell
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