Around 350 victims have come forward to report child sexual abuse within football clubs, the National Police Chiefs’ Council has said.
The number comes from information supplied by forces across the UK to Operation Hydrant, set up in 2014 to oversee investigations into historical child sex abuse concerning prominent people, and referrals from the NSPCC helpline.
The NPCC said police forces across the country had received a “significant” number of calls, both reporting further allegations and offering information.
Watch | An NSPCC football abuse helpline has received more than 860 calls in a week
Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the NPCC’s lead for child protection, said the number of victims was “an indicative figure only”, and that with information still being collated numbers could change.
He said: “We are working closely with the Football Association to ensure that the response to this significant and growing number of victims, at all levels of football, is co-ordinated effectively.
“We continue to encourage those who have been the victim of child sexual abuse to report it, regardless of how long ago the abuse may have taken place.
“We will listen and treat all reports sensitively and seriously. Anyone with any information regarding child sexual abuse is also urged to come forward.”
“When allegations are reported it enables police to assess whether there are current safeguarding risks and to ensure that appropriate action is taken to prevent children being abused today.”
Allegations of abuse are being recorded and investigated local to the area where each allegation was made, the NPCC said.
Watch | Greg Clarke: football abuse biggest crisis I can remember
More than a quarter of UK police forces are probing allegations of historical child sex abuse in football.
Derbyshire Constabulary, Warwickshire, Avon and Somerset, Essex and Norfolk Police are the latest to confirm they are investigating claims, bringing the current tally to 16.
North Yorkshire, Dorset, Staffordshire, Greater Manchester, North Wales, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire, Cheshire, Northumbria, Scotland Yard and Police Scotland have also launched inquiries.
The NSPCC also said it received more than 860 calls to a helpline in the week after it was launched on November 23.
The charity made triple the number of referrals to police or children’s services within the first three days than it did for the same period after opening its Jimmy Savile helpline in 2012.
The FA has commissioned a “dedicated NSPCC helpline for adults who were victims of sexual abuse in childhood within the football industry”, which can be contacted at all hours on 0800 023 2642.
FA boss Martin Glenn said on Thursday that he believed it unlikely there was an organised attempt to “cover up” sexual abuse in the game but has promised to punish any club found guilty of doing so “regardless of size”.
He promised the FA’s independent review would, alongside the police investigation, be looking into reports that some clubs may have paid off alleged victims in return for their silence.
Mr Glenn said: “We’ve committed to a full review, shining the light on what happened in the past in football.
“We have clear rules in the game and if there’s any evidence of a breach of those – and hushing up would be one – subject to due process, the police need to be at the right place in this, when it’s our turn to apply the rules we absolutely will, regardless of size of club.”
Former Newcastle United striker David Eatock became the latest footballer to tell police he was sexually abused in the sport.
Mr Eatock, now 40, has said that after he joined Newcastle at 18, George Ormond, a former club youth coach, indecently assaulted him and performed a sex act in front of him in two separate incidents, the Guardian reported.
Ormond was jailed for six years in 2002 for carrying out numerous assaults spanning 24 years.
The national child abuse inquiry headed by Professor Alexis Jay is also considering whether to investigate abuse in football as part of its overarching probe, Culture Secretary Karen Bradley told MPs.
And ministers are writing to all national sporting bodies to ask them to “redouble their efforts” to protect children in the wake of the scandal.
A number of football clubs have become embroiled in the scandal – Chelsea have announced they have retained a law firm to carry out an investigation concerning one of the club’s 1970s employees, who is now dead.
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