Launch of support group for soccer abused

A new support group for soccer players abused as youngsters is formed by three former professionals.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND, UK (DECEMBER 5, 2016) (ITN) – Former professional soccer players who say they were abused as youngsters have formed a new support group for victims and their families called The Offside Trust.

Andy Woodward and Steve Walters officially announced the formation at a news conference in Manchester on Monday (December 5), saying more needs to be done now and the problems of child abuse go beyond soccer and are global, not just British.

They have formed the trust with Chris Unsworth, who could not be at the news conference.

Since the first allegations were made public in November, police forces across the UK have begun investigating claims by hundreds of former young players alleging they were abused at more than 50 clubs.

Former Crewe Alexandra youth coach Barry Bennell is due to appear in court on December 14 charged with eight counts of abuse against a boy aged under 14, while on Saturday Chelsea apologised to former striker Gary Johnson, now 57, for sexual abuse he suffered as a young player and for insisting on a confidentiality clause when he was paid compensation.

England’s Football Association (FA) has said that the scale of the allegations is the organisation’s biggest challenge and it has to show young soccer players today that they are safe from abuse.

The Offside Trust founders said it will be independent of the FA and Professional Footballers’ Association and will be administered by a Manchester law firm.