LONDON (AFP) – Fifty-five league and non league clubs have been referred to police in the child sex abuse scandal that has shattered English football’s image a source told The Observer newspaper on Sunday.
In other developments English football’s embattled governing body the Football Association (FA) have been accused in The Sunday Mirror by Russell Davy, a former Charlton Athletic youth goalkeeper, of not replying to his letter in 1986 warning them of abuse by scout Eddie Heath.
Heath had moved onto Charlton after being dismissed by Chelsea — not for child abuse but for ‘spending a lot of his time in his office, decorating and cooking meals for the schoolboy players’ — who made a controversial payment in 2015 to Gary Johnson, a player abused by him in the 1970’s, but under condition of a gagging order.
Johnson has since gone public and the club — whose payment according to the Sunday Telegraph was authorised by owner Roman Abramovich’s senior adviser Marina Granovskaia and two other board members — issued a profuse apology to him on Saturday.
The size and scale of the fast-developing scandal, though, has been laid bare in The Observer with already a third of British police forces holding their own investigations which has so far seen only former Crewe Alexandra youth scout Barry Bennell, already jailed three times for child abuse, charged last Tuesday.
Heath and another former scout Frank Roper — who has been accused by former England international Paul Stewart of abusing him and in the Sunday Mirror by ex-Leeds United striker Jamie Forrester of introducing him to another paedophile — are beyond the reach of the law as they are both dead.
“We can confirm that 55 clubs in total have been referenced,” a source at the National Police Chiefs Council — which is in charge of organising the Hydrant Operation which looks into cases of long ago sex abuse — told The Observer.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) also told The Observer that youth players may still be in danger judging by the calls to their football abuse hotline.
“We have had a few bits of information, allegations where children might be at risk now,” John Cameron, the head of the NSPCC helpline told the newspaper.
Davy, now a father of two and a floor layer living on the Canary Island of Lanzarote, broke his 30 year silence to tell The Sunday Mirror Heath preyed upon him for two months when he was 15 beguiling him and his family he could become England’s number one goalkeeper.
Davy, who never made it into the professional ranks falling victim to a serious cocaine habit and served a six month sentence for assault in 1983, says he has no idea what happened to his letter to the FA which he wrote in 1986.
“Counsellors (for his drink and drugs addictions) told me it’s like when you’re grieving over your dead parents, you need to put a letter on their grave to get closure,” he told the journal.
“So I did actually write a letter to the FA telling them what had happened to me, naming Eddie Heath as the person who had done it and naming Charlton Athletic.
“I begged them to investigate so it wouldn’t happen to any youngsters coming through the ranks.
“But I never got any reply back or any response. I don;t know if it was thrown in the bin but I did write it.
“It makes me angry. I was abandoned then and I still feel like nobody cares.
“I just want answers.”