English FA investigating if clubs paid off sex abuse victims

Martin Glenn will leave after four years as CEO of the English FA. (Frank Augstein/AP)

MANCHESTER, England — Ten suspects have been identified by one of the 17 police forces investigating a sex-abuse scandal in youth soccer that is engulfing the British game.

Greater Manchester Police said on Thursday it was following up reports from 35 people, and its inquiry was growing “on a daily basis.”

Since former professional players went public over the last two weeks about the ordeals they went through as youngsters, around 350 people across the country have reported cases of child sexual abuse in soccer clubs, the National Police Chiefs’ Council said.

A hotline set up by a children’s charity in response to sex-abuse claims has taken more than 860 calls in its first week.

The English Football Association is funding the hotline and has started an internal review to re-examine its response to convictions of soccer coaches in the 1990s. That includes investigating whether clubs paid off victims of sexual abuse in return for their silence.

FA chief executive Martin Glenn said action will be taken against any club found guilty of “hushing up” victims of a growing scandal in British soccer.

“There has to be a situation,” Glenn said, “where if there are restrictive contracts through employment law which prevent people from speaking out about a crime — and we are talking about crimes here — then it must be dealt with.”

Asked if there had been a coverup within the English game regarding child-abuse cases, Glenn said: “I doubt it.”

“If the FA has made errors, we will own up to them, as must the rest of football if avoidable errors have been made.”

The issue dominated a news conference to present Gareth Southgate as the coach of England.

“To hear the stories is heartbreaking, really,” Southgate said. “I am involved in an organization that is taking it extremely seriously.

“The important thing over the next few weeks is that we still investigate what happened, that we learn from the past,” Southgate added. “And I must also say, if I’m a parent sending my child to a game over the weekend, I feel they are in a much better place than we were 15-20 years ago.”

Chelsea this week opened an investigation into an employee from the 1970s who is now dead.

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