Football sex abuse scandal: Police say other sports may be investigated as more child victims come forward

National Police Chiefs' Council says thousands of allegations emerging across UK

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Growing reports of child sex abuse in football stretching back decades could spread to other sports, police have warned. 

Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) lead for child protection, said a “significant” number of victims are likely to come forward following claims of assaults by coaches.

"I suspect that in the next few days and weeks that we will see a significant increase in the numbers that are currently reporting allegations of abuse to us,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Former Newcastle player 'alleges he was abused' as football scandal widens

"We, as a country, are now having to deal with the legacy of non-recent sexual abuse and the thousands of allegations that we are now seeing across the country.

"We are receiving reports of abuse in all sorts of different institutions. I am not in the least bit surprised that we are now seeing the lid lifted on exploitation within the world of football and I suspect there will be other sporting governing bodies - again in the next few days and weeks - who will come forward and who will identify the fact that they have similar problems.”

Former Manchester City youth player Jason Dunford claimed the scandal was bigger than the Jimmy Savile revelations as reports continued to grow on Friday.

Four police forces are now investigating allegations of historical child sex abuse in football, with a national inquiry “watching events closely” as England captain Wayne Rooney urged anyone who may have been assaulted to seek help.

A string of former footballers have come forward since Andy Woodward became the first to speak out last week about abuse he suffered at the hands of convicted child abuser Barry Bennell, a former Crewe Alexandra coach.

Ex-England and Manchester City players David White and Paul Stewart and former Crewe player Steve Walters have also spoken out about being sexually abused by football coaches as children.

Mr Bailey said he hoped people would have the confidence to come forward in the knowledge that the response by police officers and society could be “very different” than in previous decades.

The Metropolitan Police, Hampshire Police and Cheshire police are investigating allegations of abuse in the football community, while Northumbria Police is handling an allegation by an unnamed former Newcastle United player that he was abused in the club's youth system.

Operation Hydrant, which oversees the investigation of allegations of historical child sex abuse within institutions or by prominent figures, is trying to pinpoint the scale of the alleged abuse.

It has been in touch with all forces in England and Wales asking them to forward details of the allegations they have received following the recent publicity.

The NSPCC has set up a dedicated helpline - on 0800 023 2642 - for football-related cases.

Additional reporting by PA