English soccer authorities are investigating whether clubs paid off victims of sexual abuse in return for their silence.
English Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn said Thursday the body will take action 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.”
The FA has started an internal review to re-examine its response to convictions of soccer coaches in the 1990s, after former professional players went public over the last two weeks about the ordeals they went through as youngsters. The governing body is also funding and supporting a hotline – set up by a children’s charity in response to sex abuse claims – that has taken more than 860 calls in its first week.
“If the FA has made errors, we will own up to them,” Glenn said, “as must the rest of football if avoidable errors have been made.”
Asked if there had been a cover-up within the English game regarding child abuse cases, Glenn said, “I doubt it.”
The number of police forces investigating allegations of child sex abuse in soccer soared to 17 on Thursday, while the National Police Chiefs’ Council said about 350 people have come forward to report child sexual abuse in British soccer clubs.
Chelsea this week opened an investigation into an employee from the 1970s who is now dead.
The issue dominated a news conference to present Gareth Southgate as the coach of England’s national team.
“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.”