LONDON, Nov 29 — The abuse scandal rocking English football is the greatest crisis current Football Association chairman Greg Clarke can recall, he told Sky News today.
Clarke was referring to the serial child molester Barry Bennell, who has been accused by at least 20 footballers of abusing them when he worked for Crewe Alexandra, Manchester City and Stoke City across three decades beginning in the 1970’s, and is subject to five separate police investigations.
The FA has also launched its own internal review appointing leading lawyer Kate Gallafent, an expert in child protection, to head it up.
The FA said the review would find out “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”.
Clarke took over as chairman in August and has already had to deal with the removal of Sam Allardyce as England coach over comments he made in a newspaper sting and the ‘poppygate’ row with FIFA.
But he told Sky News this was the most serious problem he could remember to have afflicted English football.
“It’s certainly the biggest (crisis) I can remember,” said Clarke.
“I think the moral consequences of failing to deal with some of these issues in the past we must get to the bottom of.”
Clarke doesn’t know if the FA at the time deliberately turned a blind eye to the goings on although a reporter who made a documentary about sex abuse in football for Channel Four in 1997 has claimed there is a FA report from 2005 detailing 250 victims and spread over a number of clubs.
“I don’t know if there was a cover-up or not, I really don’t know,” said Clarke.
“I suspect like many big problems, people aren’t drawn towards them. My methodology is, if there’s a problem, run towards it, embrace it, fix it, disclose everything that happened.
“I think institutionally, all organisations in the old days used to protect themselves by keeping quiet and closing ranks.
“That’s completely inappropriate and unacceptable today.”
Clarke told the BBC that the FA review would not seek to speak to alleged victims nor would he confer with his predecessors as chairman.
“We’ve agreed with the police that we won’t talk to any of the victims formally, because they have to talk to them, they have to take statements and we’re not allowed to interfere in that process,” said Clarke, who added he thought criticism of the present FA was misplaced and they had acted speedily to look into the claims.
Bennell, who has served three jail terms for previous abuse, is presently hospitalised after police responded to a ‘fear for welfare incident’ but it has not halted the slew of victims coming forwards.
Another appeared today as former Wales Under-18 international captain Matthew Monaghan told the Daily Mail for the first time of the abuse he suffered at the hands of Bennell when he was a boy at Crewe.
Monaghan, whose 20-year-old son only learnt of what Bennell put his father through when he went public today, said his dream move to Manchester United aged just 14 never saw him kick on and left legendary manager Alex Ferguson perplexed and infuriated because of the flashbacks he had of the abuse.
Ferguson thought he was drinking too much because he had been led astray by some of the other players — even when he went in for a hernia operation, he ran up a bar bill of £800 (RM4,470) because he says there was a fridge stuffed with Guinness in his room — but he insists it was because of Bennell who began to abuse him when he was just 10 and he says raped him at least four times.
“He has good weeks and bad weeks but he suffers every day,” says his wife Denise. — AFP