Football sex abuse claims: NSPCC received more than 50 calls

David White
David White won one cap for England, against Spain in 1992

A hotline, set up after four ex-footballers spoke out about being sexually abused by coaches as children, has received more than 50 calls within its first two hours, the NSPCC says.

It said callers raised concerns about children now and in the past and it expected "many more" to come forward.

The hotline was set up after David White, Andy Woodward, Steve Walters and Paul Stewart all spoke out about abuse.

The Football Association is meeting Woodward to discuss the allegations.

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch said the former players had shown "incredible bravery" to speak about the abuse.

Shadow sports minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan has warned the scandal could "seriously damage the reputation of football" in the UK.

The hotline - which is supported by the FA - will be available 24 hours a day on 0800 023 2642.

It was set up after the four former players all waived their right to anonymity to speak publicly about abuse they suffered when they were children.

Ex-Crewe player Woodward, 43, initially went public last week about his abuse by former Crewe coach and youth football scout Barry Bennell, who was later convicted for sex offences against children.

Cheshire Police said 11 people had since come forward, including fellow ex-Crewe player Walters, 44, who says he was also a victim of Bennell.

The Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) said it expects that number to rise.

Former Manchester City and England player White, 49, also says Bennell - who was jailed for nine years in 1998 - abused him between 1979 and 1980 while he was playing for Whitehill FC junior team in Manchester.

Stewart, 52, a former England international who started his career at Blackpool and also played for Manchester City and Liverpool, told the Mirror an unnamed coach abused him daily for four years up to the age of 15.

Stewart, Woodward and Walters
The four players to speak publicly have each waived their right to anonymity as sex abuse victims. Paul Stewart (left), Steve Walters (middle) and Andy Woodward (right) have also gone public with their ordeals

NSPCC chief Peter Wanless said there must be "no hiding place" for abuse, adding: "There may be many others who suffered through such horrors as young players but have never come forward.

"As this week's revelations have been laid bare, people must be able to speak out and get the help they need, and we know that can often be more difficult for men and boys," he added.

"We welcome the FA's commitment to helping those in the game get the help and support they need."

The children's charity said boys are more than five times less likely to speak up about sexual abuse than girls.

The FA's head of equality and safeguarding, Sue Ravenlaw, said the "courage and dignity" shown by the footballers who have spoken out was "immense".

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Andy Woodward speaks about being sexually abused by his coach

Dr Allin-Khan said she welcomed the FA's involvement but wants the governing body to do more.

She said a criminal record check on coaches was "not enough", adding: "The FA need to look immediately at what action can be taken to ensure our children are being coached and supervised only by those who have their best interests at heart.

"Parents will no doubt be worried about these claims, it has the potential to seriously damage the reputation of football in our country."

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