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Clubs may have questions to answer as more ex-players come forward in football abuse scandal

A leading abuse lawyer says football clubs who benefit from the activities of convicted paedophile Barry Bennell, and other alleged abusers, cannot now distance themselves from alleged criminal activities.

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25 November 2016

Alison Millar, head of the abuse team at law firm Leigh Day, has also urged all sports bodies to review their child safety policies and warned that a loophole in law leaves older teenage sports stars open to abuse.

Ms Millar was commenting after the former footballer Chris Unsworth alleged he’d been raped more than 100 times by Bennell. Many more footballers have also come forward with allegations that they were abused as children by coaches including Bennell.

These allegations involve abuse by coaches and scouts linked to several football clubs.

Ms Millar said: "These clubs owe a duty of care to these young boys, and if it is shown that they did not do enough to protect these children from a predatory paedophile such as Bennell, whilst benefitting from his coaching and scouting activities, then they have questions to answer"

Ms Millar has also recommended that the Government look at a loophole which enables sports coaches, in a position of significant power, from avoiding prosecution if they have sex with a 16 or 17-year-old.

If a teacher, care worker or other professional in the public sector has sexual contact with a 16 or 17-year-old, that teenager would be protected by the law. However, that same law though does not apply to sports coaches.

“This loophole must be closed; sports coaches often hold great power over children in their charge, more so than a teacher. The young person’s future dreams can depend upon that coach. The law must protect teenagers from those who would seek to take advantage of this power.

“For those working with younger children there are more stringent protections in place, which we hope would protect them from abuse, however, following these latest allegations in football we would urge all sporting bodies to urgently review their child protection policies to ensure nothing like this could ever happen again.”

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