Eight police forces looking into football abuse allegations as Chelsea launch investigation

Eight police forces are now looking into allegations of historical abuse in football, in what Football Association chairman Greg Clarke describes as "the biggest" crisis he has ever seen face the game.

Speaking as police forces around the country investigate claims from more than 20 former players, Clarke was asked if offences could have been swept under the carpet.

He told Sky News: ''I don't know if there was a cover-up or not, I really don't know.

''I suspect like many big problems, people aren't drawn towards them. My methodology is, if there's a problem, run towards it, embrace it, fix it, disclose everything that happened.

''I think institutionally, all organisations in the old days used to protect themselves by keeping quiet and closing ranks. That's completely inappropriate and unacceptable today.

''It's certainly the biggest (crisis) I can remember. I think the moral consequences of failing to deal with some of these issues in the past we must get to the bottom of.''

There have been 250 reports made to police and more than 50 calls were made to an NSPCC hotline set up for sexual abuse victims in football in the initial hours of opening.

Police Scotland is the latest force to confirm it is looking into allegations following claims of sexual abuse by former players, as the FA begins an internal review.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: "We can confirm we have received reports in connection with non-recent child abuse within football.

"We are working with both Operation Hydrant and the NSPCC to ensure there is a co-ordinated UK police response. It would be inappropriate to comment further."

In the House of Lords, Baroness Chisholm said: "Since this has come out, 250 people have already contacted the police in England and Wales."

The national child abuse inquiry headed by Professor Alexis Jay is considering whether to investigate abuse in football as part of its overarching probe, Culture Secretary Karen Bradley told MPs.

And ministers are writing to all national sporting bodies to ask them to ''redouble their efforts'' to protect children in the wake of the scandal.

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire Police said: ''We have received multiple historical allegations from the NSPCC of abuse related to football in Cambridgeshire.

''The inquiries were received recently (the weekend of 26/27th) and are being looked into.''

The Metropolitan, Staffordshire, Greater Manchester, Hampshire, Cheshire and Northumbria police forces are all also investigating reports of abuse.

Chelsea later announced that they have retained an external law firm to carry out an investigation concerning an individual employed by the club in the 1970s, who is now dead.

The club added in a statement: ''The club has also contacted the FA to ensure that all possible assistance is provided as part of their wider investigation. This will include providing the FA with any relevant information arising out of the club's investigation.

"The FA has commissioned a dedicated NSPCC helpline for adults who were victims of sexual abuse in childhood within the football industry. The helpline is available 24 hours a day on 0800 023 2642.

''While the club's investigation is ongoing, we will make no further comment on this matter.''

Peterborough and Cambridge, meanwhile, vowed to fully cooperate with the authorities.

Posh owner and chairman Darragh MacAnthony said in a statement: "Peterborough United will help the police, the FA, PFA and all other governing bodies of football in their investigations into historical child sex abuse claims.

"If anyone is found guilty of any offences, we hope they will be severely dealt with by those authorities in a quick and timely manner.

"We encourage anybody with any information relating to this matter to come forward so we can help the authorities as best we can going forward.

"And trust me when I say, as a father of three young children, I am personally horrified by what is now coming to forefront in the press recently and will ensure our football club leads by example throughout this process with full transparency and honesty, top to bottom."

Cambridge said in a statement: "Cambridge United Football Club has received correspondence from Cambridgeshire Police. This follows the recent coverage about historical disclosures of child sexual abuse within football clubs.

"The correspondence indicated that, as a result of the publicity, some referrals have been shared with Cambridgeshire Police. From what we have been told, these date back to the 1990s and earlier.

"Cambridge United will treat any and every allegation of this nature with the utmost seriousness. The club is still awaiting further detail from Cambridgeshire Police and will co-operate fully in any investigation."

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