Football’s sex abuse scandal: Review to be published into game’s ‘darkest secret’
An independent review into historical sexual abuse is set to be published by the Football Association (FA) later.
Conducted by Clive Sheldon QC, it will look at how the FA, clubs and individuals handled reports of abuse made to them between 1970 and 2005, and make recommendations on safeguarding.
Sky News sports correspondent Martha Kelner said: "The report is expected to be 900 pages long and will detail the abuse of hundreds of boys by dozens of coaches.
"It will make a judgement about whether football’s darkest secret was covered up."
Ian Ackley, who was raped hundreds of times by former youth coach and serial abuser Barry Bennell between 1979 and 1983, now works as a survivor support advocate helping other ex-footballers who were abused to access therapeutic and practical help.
He has worked with the FA on improving its child safeguarding protocols, and is confident that the FA "gets it" now.
But he said that a more joined-up approach should not lead to complacency in any sport that abuse on a serial scale could never happen again.
"If anyone is naive enough to believe that the days are gone that any group of people can manipulate another group of people to the same degree that has happened, then we’re in trouble," he told the PA news agency.
"That means we haven’t learned any lessons. That means we’re saying, ‘it’s all right now, it’s different now, that’s in the past, it couldn’t possibly happen’.
"That spells disaster for me, that’s a car crash waiting to happen. It’s happened again and again and again."
Ackley says one in six adults in the UK – around 11 million people – suffered either contact or non-contact sexual abuse as children.
"This has gone far too long and far too many times," he said. "Of course it could happen again, I would argue it probably already is under our noses."
Bennell was first jailed in Florida in 1994 for raping a British boy on a football tour in the US, before going on to face prison sentences back in the UK in 1998, 2015, 2018 and 2020.
It is believed he may have more than 100 victims, as 86 complainants came forward to say they were abused by him following his last trial.