After everything that has emerged about football’s sexual-abuse scandal – including some extraordinary new details that can be reported today about the lack of co-operation from a number of high-ranking Football Association officials – it can come as a jolt to realise that the problem is not just restricted to what used to be known as the good old days.
Until now, it has widely been thought of as the property of another age. Words such as “historical” or “non-recent” have been applied and the FA certainly seemed to think as much. When the governing body announced in early-December it had commissioned an inquiry into the scandal the terms of reference made it clear it had a cut-off point “up until around 2005”.
That suddenly does not seem so clever, judging by the figures obtained by this newspaper that show 46 of the incidents reported to Operation Hydrant since November, when Andy Woodward’s interview with the Guardian set off what the FA chairman, Greg Clarke, has described as a “tidal wave,” relate to the period from 2005 to 2016. There is not one blank year and, though it can never be an exact science, it would be a mistake to believe this could not involve the sport at its highest level. The specialist police unit in charge of the investigation calculates that 23% of all the referrals (1,016 at the last count) relate to clubs from England’s top four divisions.
These are the numbers, in other words, that dismantle the theory everything goes back to the era – the 1970s and 1980s, predominantly – relating to the majority of the victims, now in their 40s and 50s, who have felt emboldened enough to talk publicly about their ordeals. (more...)