Cambridgeshire Police are among eight forces investigating claims of historic sexual abuse of young football players

Peterborough United's London Road Football Ground

Peterborough United's London Road Football Ground - Credit: Archant

Cambridgeshire Police are among eight forces investigating multiple allegations of historic child sex abuse among young footballers.

Cambridge United football ground

Cambridge United football ground - Credit: Archant

The county’s officers are following up allegations of abuse of youth players at Cambridge United and Peterborough United amid claims from across the country about paedophile coach Barry Bennell.

A Cambridgeshire Police spokesperson said: ‘We have received multiple historical allegations from the NSPCC of abuse related to football in Cambridgeshire. The inquiries were received recently and are being looked into.”

Investigating are the Metropolitan Police along with officers at Greater Manchester Police, Staffordshire, Northumbria, Hampshire, Cheshire and Scotland.

Peterborough United owner and chairman Darragh MacAnthony, said: “As a father of three young children, I am personally horrified by what is now coming to forefront in the press recently and will ensure our football club leads by example throughout this process with full transparency and honesty, top to bottom.

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“Peterborough United will help the police, the FA, PFA and all other governing bodies of football in their investigations into historical child sex abuse claims.

“If anyone is found guilty of any offences, we hope they will be severely dealt with by those authorities in a quick and timely manner.

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“We encourage anybody with any information relating to this matter to come forward so we can help the authorities as best we can going forward.”

A Cambridge United spokesman said: “Cambridge United Football Club has received correspondence from Cambridgeshire Police. This follows the recent coverage about historical disclosures of child sexual abuse within football clubs.

“The correspondence indicated that as a result of the publicity some referrals have been shared with Cambridgeshire Police. From what we have been told these date back to the 1990s and earlier.

“Cambridge United will treat any and every allegation of this nature with the utmost seriousness. The Club is still awaiting further detail from Cambridgeshire Police and will co-operate fully in any investigation”.

There have been 250 reports made to police and more than 50 calls made to an NSPCC hotline set up for sexual abuse victims in football in the initial hours of opening.

Bennell worked for Crewe, Manchester City, Stoke and junior teams in north-west England and the Midlands, abused boys from the 1970s onwards.

Bennell was first arrested in the US after he abused boys on a trip to Florida.

He was jailed for four years for raping a British boy on a 1994 football tour of Florida, and then, aged 44, was given a nine-year sentence for 23 offences against six boys in England in 1998.

He was jailed for a third time in 2015 after admitting abusing a boy at a 1980 football camp in Macclesfield.

Those making allegations against him include former Manchester City star David White and youth player Jason Dunford, plus ex-Crewe player Steve Walters and youngster Chris Unsworth.

• An NSPCC spokesman said: “There must be no hiding place for sexual abuse in our national game and there may be many others who suffered through such horrors as young players but have never come forward.

“As last week’s revelations have laid bare, people must be able to speak out and get the help they need, and we know that can often be more difficult for men and boys.

“We welcome the FA’s commitment to helping those in the game get the help and support they need.”

• If you experienced sexual abuse as a young footballer, you can ring the free, 24-hour NSPCC football helpline – 0800 023 2642 – for support.

• If you think a child is in immediate danger of abuse, contact the police on 999.

• If there’s no immediate danger and you’re unsure of who to speak to, call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 for immediate advice.

• If you are a parent with concerns about any club member find out the club guidelines for recording and reporting concerns and follow them.

• Speak to the club child-protection or welfare officer.

• For concerns related to swimming, you can contact SwimLine on 0808 100 4001

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