More footballers paid to keep silent over sexual abuse, says alleged victims' lawyer

Ed Smethurst of Manchester firm Prosperity Law was speaking at a press conference held by Andy Woodward and Steve Walters

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The Independent Football

The lawyer representing alleged victims of sexual abuse at Crewe Alexandra FC declared on Monday that he knew of a number of players who had been paid off by clubs to keep silent.

Chelsea apologised at the weekend for paying £50,000 to their former player Gary Johnson but solicitor Ed Smethurst of Manchester firm Prosperity Law said there were others. “I’m aware of other situations where confidentiality clauses have been used with other footballers,” Mr Smethurst said. “Attempts are being being made settlements are being reached which are subject to confidentiality.“

The disclosure was made at a press conference in central Manchester staged by two alleged victims of abuse – Andy Woodward and Steve Walters – to launch The Offside Trust, an independent group to support players who have suffered from abuse and their families.

Mr Smethurst said that the organisation was being launched because players did not trust the football establishment. “A number of people have come forward who so far have said they don’t have trust in the establishment, whatever that is,” said Mr Smethurst. “We want to give victims reassurance that we will be truly independent and representative.

The Football Association has set it will launch an independent inquiry, though Mr Smethurst said victims remained to be convinced by how effective that would be. “I think we need to see what the remit of that inquiry is,” he said.

One of the directors of the new Trust, former Crewe Alexandra player Steve Walters, said that Chelsea should be acknowledged for their apology to Johnson and that it was a “disgrace” that the former Crewe players had not received one.

“We haven’t been offered any money. We’ve not even been offered an apology yet from our football club,” Mr Walters said. “Fair play to Chelsea Football Club. Their apology is too little too late but at least they have made an apology. There are so many more [victims]. I get phone calls every day from players. There are so many more to come out.”

Fair play to Chelsea Football Club. Their apology is too little too late but at least they have made an apology.
Steve Walters

Mr Smethurst said that victims of alleged abuse had identified people still in the game who have been perpetrators of abuse. “There are absolutely people involved in the game today who victims have spoken to me about,” he said. ”They certainly need thorough investigation.”

Chelsea said in a statement at the weekend that the settlement was reached with Mr Johnson because the club's board understood it was "usual practice" to include a mutual confidentiality agreement. They said that Mr Johnson's solicitors had not objected to the clause when it was signed.

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