Crewe Alexandra launch investigation as football sex abuse scandal deepens

'The club is determined that a thorough investigation takes place at the earliest opportunity,' says Crewe Alexandra in a statement

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The Independent Online

Crewe Alexandra have announced an independent internal investigation into the club's handling of historical sex abuse allegations, in response to the widening scandal hitting football.

The club has said it was determined a thorough investigation take place as soon as possible.

The scandal erupted after four ex-footballers claimed former Crewe youth coach Barry Bennell had sexually abused them.

Bennell, now 62, worked for Crewe, Leeds United, Manchester City and Stoke City football clubs from the 1970s onwards.

A convicted paedophile, he was given a four-year sentence in 1994 for raping a British boy on a football tour of Florida.

In 1998, he was sentenced to nine years in prison for 23 charges of sexual abuse against six boys.

And he was jailed a third time in 2015 after pleading guilty to abusing a boy at a football camp in Macclesfield in 1980.

Crewe said in a statement: "The club is determined that a thorough investigation takes place at the earliest opportunity and believes an independent review, to be conducted via the appointment of external legal counsel, is the correct way forward in the circumstances."

A top-level meeting at the club discussed the allegations against Bennell and decided to keep him on despite growing concern over his relationship with young boys at the club, The Guardian previously reported.

According to former Crewe board member Hamilton Smith, the conclusion of the meeting was that Bennell would remain at the club on the condition he not be left alone with the boys or allowed to arrange overnight stays.

Mr Smith, a board member from 1986 to 1990, said: "I’m incredibly angry the club continue to refute that they knew anything about suspicions of Bennell’s activities.

"This was discussed at the club’s top level and, as much as I tried to resolve this, regrettably I couldn’t.

"I dread to think how many victims there are, and my heart goes out to them."