As many as 83 potential suspects identified in football sex abuse investigation

639 referrals have so far been received by the inquiry into the

BY Newstalk 11:19 Friday 9 December 2016, 11:19 9 Dec 2016

Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

More than 80 potential suspects have been identified in connection with allegations of historical child sex abuse in football.

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) said the number of people who have made allegations remains at 350.

It revealed that 98% of those identified as victims were male and the age of potential victims at the time of the alleged abuse ranged from as young as seven through to 20. Investigators said 98 clubs at all levels of the game - from the premiership through to the amateur grassroots - had so far been "impacted" by the inquiry.

However, police stressed this did not mean they were all under investigation, but had been referenced when information was submitted.

Some 639 referrals have so far been received by the inquiry, called Operation Hydrant, which are being examined "to determine if the referral relates to a victim or a witness and whether the information received is new or a duplication of information already received".

National Police Chiefs' Council lead for child protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey, said: "Allegations received by police forces across the country are being swiftly acted upon.

"We are ensuring an efficient and effective service-wide approach to investigating allegations, removing the potential for duplication and enabling the timely and effective sharing of intelligence and information between forces.

"We are also liaising closely with the Football Association to ensure all relevant information they hold is shared to inform investigations moving forward.

"We continue to urge anyone who may have been a victim of child sexual abuse to report it by dialling 101, or contacting the dedicated NSPCC helpline, regardless of how long ago the abuse may have taken place.

"We will listen and treat all reports sensitively and seriously. Anyone with any information regarding child sexual abuse is also urged to come forward."

He added: "As the number of calls being received across the service is higher than usual, it may take longer than normal for an officer from a local force to make contact to follow up from the initial call. Please be assured that the information provided will be taken seriously and acted upon."

An NSPCC spokesman said: "These shocking numbers now identified by police reveal the deeply disturbing extent of abuse that has been going on within football.

"Our football hotline, launched with the support of the FA, saw a staggering surge in calls in its first week and anyone who wants to contact us can continue to do so in confidence, with the knowledge they will be listened to and supported."

Off The Ball


The very best bits of Off The Ball delivered every week