FA abuse inquiry chief receives counselling after hearing victims' stories

Youth footballers practising
Police have spoken to at least 741 alleged victims who say they were abused through football

The man leading the independent investigation into historical child sex abuse in football has received counselling to deal with the traumatic evidence he has heard.

Barrister Clive Sheldon QC was asked by the Football Association to look into the scandal last year, following a series of allegations from former players.

So far he has met 15 victims, and - along with his team - has had therapy after hearing the stories of the devastating effect the abuse has had.

The sheer scale of the task facing the inquiry also means a final report will not now be completed until Easter 2018 at the earliest, several months later than originally planned.

Investigators have sifted through 1,266 boxes in the FA archives - each containing up to 1,000 pages - as part of their painstaking search for relevant documents relating to safeguarding procedures and child protection cases.

However, there are still another 2,092 boxes yet to be reviewed.

The review is asking anyone involved with football who wishes to provide information about the way in which clubs or the FA dealt with concerns over child sex abuse between 1970 and 2005 to come forward.

The investigation has been hampered by four of the 46 county FAs not yet submitting their replies to the inquiry team, despite Sheldon originally writing to them on 11 May, and giving them a deadline of 1 June. Sources close to the inquiry believe this can be explained by 'inertia' rather than obstruction.

An FA spokesperson said: "We were made aware of this last week and have been working proactively to ensure these remaining county FAs assist and support Clive Sheldon's investigation with the utmost priority."

The last police figures at the end of June showed 741 alleged victims had come forward and 276 suspects had been identified.

Operation Hydrant, the specialist police unit in charge of the operation, had received 1,886 referrals and a number of court cases involving professional clubs are under way.

The inquiry team remain keen to speak to anyone with relevant information. To get in touch, email football@sportresolutions.co.uk.

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