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No, the football sex abuse scandal is not bigger than Hillsborough

IT’S “FOOTBALL’s BIGGEST EVER CRISIS,” says the Daily Mirror as it continues to lead with the sex abuse story. Is it? Is it bigger than the Hillsborough disaster that saw 96 people lose their lives and be branded criminals by the State’s lying police force? Barry Bennell, the awful man at the epicentre of the story, is a convicted paedophile. He’s now been charged with eight sexual assaults involving a boy under 14 dating between 1981 and 1985.

 

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Bennell has been living as a free man in Milton Keynes. Is that justice? Eric Bristow thought it not. He said he’d have smashed the “poof” Bennell’s face in, as “real men” should. The men who did not confront their abuser are “wimps”. For expressing his crass opinion on twitter, Bristow has been sacked as a pundit on Sky Sports and paraded throughout the media as a pariah, an enemy of any right-minded human being.

You could compare Bristow to Eamonn Holmes, the Sky News presenter who earlier this year said an attack by West Ham fans on the Manchester United team bus was like Hillsborough.  “Now this is going back to the 70s and to the 80s to everything you were seeing that was bad about Hillsborough for instance,” opined Holmes on the TV. Unlike Bristow, he wasn’t shunned, and sacked.

Does the media operate a hierarchy of outrage, with being ‘unlawfully killed’ and branded a killer – and do consider 10-year-old Jon-Paul Gilhooley, the youngest to die in the horror (the coroner ordered a sample of his blood to be checked for signs of alcohol), Phillip Hammond (14), Victoria Jane Hicks (15), Peter Andrew Harrison (15), Lee Nicol (14), Philip John Steele (15) and Kevin Tyrrell (15) – lower in the table than child abuse, the horror that can be a useful way to showcase your own sound morals?

Holmes apologised and kept his job. Bristow deleted his tweets, apologised and lost his.

 

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When 96 people died at the football in 1989, the media blamed the victims, the State stomped on their relatives and presented all football fans as suspects. It took an arduous 26 year fight for the Hillsborough campaigners to be told the blameless dead had been unlawfully killed.

The story of sexual abuse in football is grim. Child sex abuse is an evil. But to say it is a worse football scandal than the horrors of Hillsborough is a cop out. Bennell is alive. Bennell’s victims are speaking out and being heard. They could have spoken out earlier. They might be heard in court yet. Bennell appears to have attempted suicide. He’s thought to be in the Lister Hospital, Stevenage.

The story of sex abuse in football has faces to attack, blame and shun.

The victims of Hillsborough could not speak. The coppers who lied to make killers of the victims all escaped court. They still await justice. Maybe the bereaved and abused should do as Bristow advises, take the law into their own hands and crack skulls. But that’s not easy when the weight of the State is against you. Where do you begin?

 

Posted: 30th, November 2016 | In: Key Posts, Reviews, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Barry Bennell: Horrific abuse and the Dominoes effect but no Gary Speed

The paedophiles in football story continues unabated in the Mirror, which leads with the front-page headline “10 questions the FA must answer”. It must? No. This is the newspaper making a story that first appeared in the Guardian into its own campaign. On November 16, former footballer Andy Woodward told the Guardian’s Daniel Taylor about the “horrific abuse he suffered from the age of 11 by one of his coaches, in the hope that others will come forward too”.

 

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Taylor noted on November 26 in a story headlined “When I started talking to Barry Bennell’s victims, I had no idea how deep abuse ran in football” that the story throws up questions.

Some of those questions may never be addressed properly and, all the time, there is that nagging sense that, when it really mattered, the sport of Andy Woodward, Steve Walters, Paul Stewart, David White, Chris Unsworth, Jason Dunford and Ian Ackley – and I dread to think how many others – looked the other way.

So to the Mirror today and its 10 questions, which can be summed up as, ‘Who knew what and why wasn’t Barry Bennell exposed sooner?’ We’d add: “Why didn’t newspaper get hold of this story before Andy Woodward felt brave enough to tell all?

“Only now, at the age of 43, I feel I can actually live without that secret and that massive, horrible burden,” Woodward told Taylor. “I want to get it out and give other people an opportunity to do the same. I want to give people strength. I survived it. I lost my career, which was a massive thing for me, but I’m still here. I came through the other side. Other people can have that strength.”

Bennell began his football career coaching juniors in 1970, when he was 16. On a 1994 tour with the Stone Dominoes, a 13-year-old club player claimed that Bennell had sexually abused him.

The Dominoes’ website has a note:

1992-1994
Lichfield League.

A professional coach joined from Crewe Alex and ex Manchester City, and accelerated development. Tours to the USA took place in 1993 and 1994 with great success.

5 Wedgwood Keele Classics were collected with several Championships and Cups as well.

Unfortunately the coach was dismissed by the Club in 1994 for gross misconduct and a review of the club’s situation undertaken.

 

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The Mail notes:

The founder of the Stone Dominoes football club, where Bennell was working in the early 1990s when first arrested and convicted of sex offences against boys, has told this newspaper that a lawyer connected to the League Managers’ Association did ‘due diligence’ on Bennell before they hired him, and after consulting previous employers, including Manchester City and Crewe, ‘cleared’ Bennell as a suitable man to hire.

Bennell’s convictions can be listed (via the Mail):

1994: Barry Bennell is sentenced to four years in prison in the United States after pleading guilty to six counts of sexual assault, including the rape of a boy, while coaching Staffordshire side Stone Dominoes during their youth tour of Florida.

1998: Bennell was found guilty at Chester Crown Court in 1998 of 23 offences against six boys, aged from nine to 15, and was sentenced to nine years in jail.

2015: Bennell was given a further sentence in 2015 when he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing another boy at a camp in Macclesfield in 1980.

The 1997, the Independent warned readers: “Football-mad boys are being put in “potentially dangerous situations” where they could be abused by the people who train them, according to a Channel 4 programme to be screened tonight.”

The show was Dispatches, a documentary series on Channel 4.

An investigation by Dispatches says that the hold coaches have over their school-age proteges – the chance of a career in professional football – can give them the opportunity to abuse boys for years with little fear of discovery.

One former coach, Barry Bennell, who worked at Manchester City, Stoke City and Crewe Alexandra is currently serving four years in a United States prison after admitting buggery and assault on a boy.

Another amateur club, Ipswich Saracens, found that their coach Keith Ketley was a convicted sex offender. Despite this he had been able to set up another team with Football Association affiliation. He is now serving five years in jail after being found guilty on four counts of indecent assault…

One of the boys was Ian Ackley, who played for a Derbyshire side coached by Bennell. “Looking back on the things that have happened [I have] lots of regrets really,” he said. “It reminds me very much of the control he had basically over people. And how he very much had people in his grip.”…

It was not until 1994 when Bennell took youth teams from Staffordshire on tour to Florida that a 13-year-old boy spoke out about the abuse he suffered and Bennell was arrested. He could only be charged with offences committed in the US.

Ketley had run a team in Southend-on-Sea, but after pleading guilty to indecently assaulting boys he was sentenced to 18 months. He moved to Ipswich, changed his name and started up another club.

Around 43,000 clubs are currently affiliated to the Football Association (FA). The chairman of Suffolk FA told the programme: “No checks would necessarily be made on their background unless we were particularly suspicious.”

 

 

In 2005, the Observer reported: “Child abusers who shame British football.”

The mother’s voice trembles as she describes the night her 14-year-old son was sexually assaulted at the home of a referee he had befriended on a FA course.

‘He fled from the house at 4am wearing just his trainers, a fleece and his boxer shorts because the man had hidden his clothes. He called 999. It was terrible,’ she says. ‘It’s a parent’s worst nightmare and for my son it’s a life sentence.’

Over pages 4 and 5 in the Mirror, we learn that more than 20 players have now made accusations they were abused. The paper lists clubs implicated: Leeds United, Blackpool, Manchester City, Stoke City, Newcastle United and Crewe Alexandra.

In the Mail, on page 10, we learn that the FA is to launch an independent inquiry into the abuse scandal. On page 75, Martin Samuel writes:

“It is false to speak of past crimes or misdemeanours as historic. Football clubs mine those centuries, milk them for all they are worth, certainly in commercial terms. They are not directly responsible for events that happened decades ago; but are not separate to them, either. The duty of care extends way beyond the present day.”

Some victims will come forward. Not all will. In 2012, we read in the Telegraph of the late Gary Speed:

As a junior player, the Wales football manager, who committed suicide last November, was considered “special” by Barry Bennell and stayed at his house as a child.

Can we make a link between Gary Speed and Bennell on anything but speculation?

The coroner returned a narrative verdict after deciding it was impossible to determine whether the 42-year-old had intended to end his life. Mrs Speed’s lawyers, Harbottle & Lewis, denied that his death was linked to Bennell.

The lawyers issued a statement to The Sunday Times Magazine: “Whilst Gary Speed knew Mr Bennell through football connections, he was not a ‘victim’ and thus played no part in the investigation. The Speed family have been assured that the police investigation at the time was exceptionally thorough and there is no legitimate reason to link Mr Bennell to Mr Speed.”

Nonetheless the Mail makes a link to Bennell and suicide:

At least one of the agencies working on the fallout from the scandal is examining the possibility that there may have been multiple suicides among players who were coached by Bennell.

And then there is this:

Former Wales manager Gary Speed took his own life five years ago this week. Speed’s family have said he was ‘not a victim’ of Bennell, as far as they are aware

 

bennell gary speeed

 

The Mail seems to be ignoring the word of the family to make a link where no proof of one exists.

The Mirror adds: “Tragic Gary Speed stayed at paedophile coach Barry Bennell’s home but was ‘too clever’ to be victim, says dad.”

Gary speed’s father, Roger Speed, had been talking to the Telegraph. It headlined the story “Was Gary Speed a victim of sex abuser Barry Bennell?”

It’s an unpleasant story. Roger Speed lost his son and is now being asked to speculate. The Mirror notes: ” During his interview with The Telegraph, Roger also said he does not believe his family will ever get the answers they want over his son’s passing.”

 

Posted: 28th, November 2016 | In: Reviews, Sports | Comment


Football paedophile panic: Hundreds becomes thousands as Barry Bennell grows ever more prolific

The Mail leads with the football sex abuse story. “THERE COULD BE THOUSANDS” thunders the paper’s lead sports story.

 

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Be in no doubt it’s getting worse. Earlier in the week it was “hundreds”.

 

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The hundreds and thousands are not the paedophiles working as football coaches who abused young players – although given the nature of the reporting, they might be – but the victims.

The Mirror’s front-page story was based on words by their columnist Robbie Savage, who was a youngster at Crewe Alexandra, where convicted paedophile Barry Bennell coached. Bennell has served three prison sentences, amounting to 15 years, since 1994 for many offences committed against boys.

Says Savage: “Sometimes I’d go into training on a Monday and hear some of the lads say, ‘I stayed at Barry’s at the weekend.’ And I’d be thinking, ‘Why not me? Why didn’t he ask me? Am I not a good enough player? Have I done something wrong?’ Of course, I now know what happened to some of those boys and I know I’m one of the lucky ones but, at the time, that’s what went through my mind.”

He then speculates: “We need to know how many more Barry Bennells are out there. And how many victims are still suffering because of what happened to them.”

And from Savage’s guesstimate of hundreds, we turn to the Mail’s “thousands”. “Thousands of young footballers could have been abused by a nationwide paedophile ring,” says the Mail today.

The number is provided by former Manchester City youth player Jason Dunford, “who says he was targeted” by Barry Bennell:

‘There could be thousands of boys abused and I’m not exaggerating,’ said Dunford, who had fought off Bennell as a 13-year-old schoolboy at a Butlin’s camp.

Dunford came forward after Andy Woodward, a former Crewe player who was abused by Bennell, gave an account of his own experiences… triggering an earthquake within the game.

‘Andy has not even touched the surface with telling his own stories,’ added Dunford. ‘He told how he had been on a camp to Gran Canaria and Bennell had a different boy every night. So take the school holidays, training nights, tournaments. Over 30 years, it absolutely could be thousands.’

The story of depraved criminality has taken on a life of its own.

What of the police? Four police forces are not involved in the investigation.

The Metropolitan Police, Britain’s biggest force, said it “has received information relating to non-recent sexual abuse in football clubs in London”…

Hampshire Police said its detectives are investigating non-recent child abuse “within the football community”.

Cheshire Police said it had received ”a growing number of disclosures” and that allegations have been “made against more than one individual”…

Northumbria Police said it was investigating an allegation by an unnamed former Newcastle United player that he was abused in the club’s youth system.

The Guardian also leads with the story.

 

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The story runs:

Crewe Alexandra, the club most heavily implicated in the Barry Bennell case, were warned he had sexually abused one of his junior footballers but allowed the man who turned out to be a serial paedophile to stay at the club for a number of years, the Guardian has been told…

Hamilton Smith, who was on the board from 1986 to early 1990, has told this newspaper he was so concerned at the time he asked for specially convened talks about concerns over Bennell’s relationship with young boys at the club and, specifically, to inform his colleagues that someone had marched over to him at a junior football match to allege that a friend’s son had been abused.

Crewe, we learn, “have declined to comment.”

Such are the facts.

Posted: 26th, November 2016 | In: Back pages, Reviews | Comment


Barry Bennell: Manchester City implicated and Jimmy Savile exhumed in football’s peado scandal

The peado-hunt has reached football. Following the grim news that young players were molested by coaches, the Mail leads its sports coverage with a story that Manchester City are in a “sex abuse probe”. Is the entire club is in some way linked to paedophilia? Surely not. It makes you hanker for those wholesome days of randy footballers, glamour models, spit roasts at the Grosvenor hotel and super-injunctions. Seedy stuff it was was, but always between consenting adults.

The Mail’s story is overblown. City are looking at the club’s links with convicted paedophile Barry Bennell, who “coached junior teams connected to City”. The club is doing the sensible thing and looking into if Bennell ever represented City. We don’t know if he did, let alone if he abused any youngsters on City’s books.

The Mail seems to be linking a Premier League club with a lower-league scandal – Bennell was employed by Crewe Alexandra.

Over in the Mirror, which has twice this week led with the story on its front page, page 9 features a remarkable headline: “Rooney tells footy sex victims: Don’t suffer in silence.” That’s Manchester United and England’s Wayne Rooney. He wants anyone who has suffered to contact the new NSPCC hotline. ‘NSPCC chief Peter Wanless hoped Rooney would “give courage to those who may be afraid of coming forward’,” says the paper. How? Rooney was not molested. How does Rooney’s endorsement help middle-aged men confront their past? It all carries a faint whiff of PR, a chance for leading figures to be on the side of the right against a wrong anyone sane should know is criminal and revolting. Creating a sense of moral purpose from the pursuit of child-abusers is crass. But that’s how the peado-panic has been manifest for years. Child abuse stopped being about the victims and listening to someone regardless of age and social rank with respect when they make an allegation and into the nation’s defining characteristic.

 

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And so the Sun. Over two page it invites readers to work out an answer to the headline poser: “Is beast Bennell the Jimmy Savile of football world?” The helpful bit about getting to any answer is that Bennell is alive and we know where he is: (Milton Keynes, says the Mirror; he’s in “hiding”, says the Sun). That makes him only half like Savile, who is decomposing, having died a blameless national treasure. The unhelpful bit is that the Sun’s story contains not a single fact linking Bennell to Savile. Other than in the headline, the Sun’s story on a convicted paedophile contains only one mention of the gibbering Yorkshire DJ – “the scandal now described as “potentially worse than Savile“.’

It’s lamentable that something as abhorrent as child abuse should be sensationalised. When being against child abuse is your media’s campaign, the bar has been set lower than Savile’s upturned toes.

Posted: 25th, November 2016 | In: Key Posts, Manchester City, Reviews, Sports, Tabloids | Comments (2)