Child abuse alleged at top football clubs

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A study by the government-backed Independent Football Commission reveals that four cases of child abuse have been investigated at Premiership clubs in the past three years. It also details many more reports of bullying by coaches and aggressive parents across England. Some experts estimated that up to 250 cases, varying from criminal abuse to what has been termed non-criminal "bad practice", are being dealt with by the game's officials at any one time.

The chairman of the Independent Football Commission, Professor Derek Fraser, said last night that a report had been released highlighting a number of cases. He added that the study praised authorities for tackling the situation.

Meanwhile it has been reportedthat the Football Association has admitted banning more than 60 people from participating in the game as it viewed them a threat to children. Its criminal records checks were said to reveal every week that up to 10 people in the game were potential abusers, according to a report in The Observer.

Cases of abuse which were far more serious than bullying, and which involved criminality, had been discovered, Tony Pickering, the FA's head of child protection, reportedly said.

Also highlighted was the failure of some clubs to supervise star players properly when they were giving out signatures; sometimes that involved female fans asking for body autographs.

"Children playing football must have an enjoyable and safe environment and be protected from abuse," said Professor Fraser. And while emphasising that progress had been made, he said: "The challenge for football remains daunting."