POLICE in Warwickshire are investigating allegations of child sexual abuse in football.
The force confirmed it was looking into possible historical abuse cases in the county following the shocking allegations which have rocked the football world.
Supt Alison Davies of Warwickshire Police said: “A full, thorough and impartial investigation is now underway and the welfare of those who come forward to report offences is our utmost priority, we will do all we can to ensure they are fully supported.
“I would also like to appeal to anyone who has been affected by similar offences to come forward to police. Reports of sexual offences are taken seriously irrespective of when they took place and anyone who makes a report will be treated in a sensitive manner.”
Warwickshire Police was unable to confirm the number of reports or referrals received so far as these are currently being collated by Operation Hydrant – the police national hub set up in 2014 to investigate allegations of non-recent child abuse. Anyone with information relating to offences is urged to contact police on 101.
Warwick-based sexual abuse charity Safeline has seen calls to its helpline rocket.
CEO Neil Henderson said: “Since the stories about abuse in football broke, the male helpline has seen a huge spike in the numbers of people contacting us to seek support or enquire how they can report their abuse to the police.
“The number of contacts with the helpline has increased by over 50 per cent, the number of people wanting to report their abuse has increased by 25 per cent and the demand for online counselling has increased by 150 per cent.
“Many of the calls are football-related but many more are not. They are from a wide range of people who have been empowered by the courageous footballers to speak about their own abuse for the first time. One individual has lived with his abuse for over 80 years.
“Safeline is providing vital emotional support to everyone contacting them and if others would like this support, please contact the helpline on 01926 402498.”
The Birmingham County Football Association – the governing body on behalf of the FA for football played in the region – is also actively looking to support victims.
A spokesman said: “Across Birmingham FA region we are very proud of the safeguarding network in place, to ensure football is safe for young people to enjoy.
“Anyone who has experienced or is experiencing abuse in football, or who has concerns about children’s welfare, should contact the police or The FA directly, or utilise this specific NSPCC helpline – available 24 hours a day on 0800 023 2642 – to gain support and advice.”
“Trained staff will offer support, advice and guidance, and will refer cases on to the police or other agencies as appropriate, such as if a child is in immediate danger.”