British police investigating sexual abuse in soccer have received calls from 250 people, the government announced Tuesday, as FIFA said the high-profile scandal could lead to offenses by youth development coaches being exposed worldwide.
In a day of developments, Chelsea also opened an investigation into an employee from the 1970s who is now dead, while the English Football Association acknowledged it was braced for compensation claims.
Former professionals have been speaking publicly for the first time over the last two weeks about the ordeals they went through as youngsters. Some of the victims previously gave evidence to convict offenders without being named but new allegations are also being reported.
“Since this has come out, 250 people have already contacted the police in England and Wales,” Caroline Chisholm, a government spokesman in the House of Lords, told Britain’s upper chamber.
Police Scotland on Tuesday joined seven forces in England by confirming it was looking into abuse claims.
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FIFA does not believe Britain is the only country where the game has been exploited by pedophiles, and world soccer’s governing body is ready to offer “psychological support” to victims.
“Maybe the visibility and the publicity around this event will also trigger more reaction around the world and we should be very open to really listening to those who have suffered this treatment,” FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura told British broadcaster ITV.
A hotline has been set up in England to report abuses, while the FA appointed a lawyer to re-examine its response to convictions of coaches in the 1990s. That could lead to demands by victims for payouts if the FA’s actions reflected what chairman Greg Clarke described as a “societal failure” at the time to protection children.
“If there are legal consequences, we’ll deal with it,” Clarke said at Wembley Stadium, the FA’s headquarters. “We won’t, in any way, conceal the facts to protect ourselves. I don’t think we should get hung up on the compensation. (It) will be a consequence of the facts as they emerge. If people have legal rights, they will pursue them.”
Clarke described reports that clubs might have sought to pay off victims in return for their silence as “morally repugnant.”
Addressing current welfare issues in soccer, Clarke added: “You have to be paranoid when it comes to child safeguarding.”