police-boxJust when you thought it was safe to put the Paedo back in the box, the blighter has escaped again. Someone call the cops! Not to worry – cometh the Paedo, cometh the Chief Constable; this time it’s the turn of Norfolk’s main man, Simon Bailey. The No.1 Bobby from the land of big-eared boys on farms also happens to be ‘lead for child protection’ of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, so he obviously knows his stuff.

Chief Constable Bailey declared on Saturday that there will be a significant increase in numbers coming forward to report historical sexual abuse in sports other than football. Without even heading for the hat-stand in the hallway and reaching for the headgear marked ‘cynic’, it’s hard not to detect the palpable relish in a statement that means we will once again see the nation’s individual police forces devoting their resources to investigating alleged crimes committed twenty, thirty or forty years ago rather than coping with the far more difficult task of solving crimes committed in the here and now. It’s the crime-fighting equivalent of opting for the cosy familiarity of Radio 2’s playlist instead of taking a risk with 6 Music because the memory-laden soundtrack of the past is easier on the ears and easier to deal with than the unpredictability of the contemporary.

In what our law-enforcers know is a tried-and-trusted self-fulfilling prophesy, the announcement by a prominent policeman (at least in his own neck of the woods) that he suspects ‘there will be other sporting governing bodies…who will come forward and who will identify the fact that they have similar problems’ is guaranteed to unleash the kind of workload the police are evidently in sore need of as well as fuelling this nation’s insatiable appetite for the subject it clearly can’t get enough of. The words ‘credible’ and ‘true’ have yet to be bandied about, but other hackneyed phrases that constitute the lexicon of the historical child abuse narrative have reappeared, just as we all knew they would.

‘Brave’ and ‘Courageous’ were employed to describe the sad TV confessions of a group of ex-footballers fulfilling the moral obligation of the moment by providing a voyeuristic public and a salacious media with the most intimate and explicit personal details of their pasts; and, of course, ‘other victims coming forward’, that other old chestnut, was wheeled out for one more encore. As we are informed that four separate forces are stepping into their customised police boxes for further journeys back in time following last week’s high-profile revelations of a former youth coach who has already served time and is recognised as a past offender, the farcical national inquiry into child sex abuse has said it is ‘watching events closely’, perhaps intending to add football to its itinerary in around three or four years time.

The NSPCC, supposedly a children’s charity, has become the unofficial sponsor of the grown men whose miserable childhoods took place decades ago; the usual ambulance-chasing law firms have pricked-up their ears at a development that holds the prospect of fresh exploitation as well as financial salvation; and Crewe Alexandra, the perennial lower-league dwellers who once employed Barry Bennell, the man at the centre of these allegations, are apparently launching their own investigation into the unpleasant affair to boot. The wheels of the industry are being oiled anew and timing, as ever, is everything.

The BBC has given extensive coverage to this story, excitedly rounding-up the ex-pros to spill the beans on Victoria Derbyshire’s coffee-table chinwag in classic Oprah Winfrey fashion; one can’t help but suspect the Corporation is rubbing its hands together as it has done on numerous occasions post-Savile, eager to prove it wasn’t alone in allowing rampant Paedos to fiddle about to their dark heart’s content on their premises in the past. And, of course, the boys in blue, still smarting from the justifiable condemnation they received following the publication of the report into Operation Midland, are desperate to deflect attention away from their own ineptitude and corruption of justice, hoping they can win back the public’s trust in them by embarking upon a new mission against the common enemy.

As the most extreme extension of the ‘they’re all at it’ conspiracy theory conviction, the historical child abuse industry has been one of the few post-2008 success stories in the UK over the last five years; and like every booming business, it has a network of individuals and institutions that are financially dependent upon it. What would become of the arms industry, after all, if there were no wars taking place in which the latest weaponry was required?

Likewise, having exhausted the respective worlds of showbiz, politics, academia and various branches of Christianity, this particular industry has spent a great deal of time and energy engaged in a search for the next untapped source of revenue. So far, sport – usually bogged-down with match-fixing or drug-taking scandals – has evaded the shadow of historic abuse. Now, however, its time has arrived.

Like many detached observers witnessing yet another chapter in this saga unfolding, I often ponder on how and why we got here. I sometimes wonder if the obsession of Britain with a rare sexual peccadillo and the belief that every outlet of ‘the establishment’ has been a haven for its practitioners due to institutionalised blind eyes betrays a deep grievance with this society’s social and financial inequality. Intense envy of the rich, the famous and the powerful has grown in line with the dramatic decrease of social mobility; and as economic divisions widen rather than narrow it would appear the only way in which many can deal with the harsh truth that they will die in possible poverty and undoubted obscurity is to take the rich, famous and powerful down with them. Unfortunately, the beneficiaries of this nihilistic approach to a hopeless situation are themselves, if not famous, then increasingly rich and increasingly powerful.

© The Editor

30 thoughts on “THE UGLY GAME

  1. Pet, I suppose it almost wrote itself, but thank you all the same. I think the points in your final paragraph about the economic situation are worthy of further exploration, though probably by someone sharper than me. Football seems to offer a new seam, just as the pit was becoming unproductive. Actually, whilst I’m scraping the barrel for resource metaphors, is trawling the legal equivalent of fracking?

    When the Guardian launched this campaign, for that is surely what is it – a media campaign (‘trawling’ doesn’t really do it justice) – I naturally thought that this Bennell fella was football’s Jimmy Savile. But I suppose he’s much more of a Gary Glitter figure, given the multiple convictions which make him fair game for pretty much any slander. Given that the police ‘got him’ on a series of ‘specimin charges’, it seems a little harsh to keep on getting him after he’s done his time. But it looks as though the real target is someone higher up the foodchain.

    One other really odd thing about all of this is that it’s his (presumably) former brother-in-law leading the charge. No chance for bitterness there then.

    If you can bring yourself to go there, the original (1997) Dispatches ‘Soccer’s Foul Play’ is now on Youtube. It’s all been exposed before.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As with earlier ‘paedo scandals’, the thing at greatest risk is proportion.
    I have no doubt that some coaches in sports which attract youngsters were themselves attracted to that role because of the opportunity it provided to exercise their own unconventional interests, and if they’re professionals like the football cases, they’re even getting paid for it: it must feel like winning the lottery. (When I was growing up, that ‘dodgy’ label was most often appended to scout-masters and choir-masters.) I have also no doubt that the vast majority of people who so generously give of their personal time and effort to help young people to excel in different areas have no other interest than seeing their charges learn, develop and progress in their chosen field.

    The danger is that the ‘label’ is now gaining such a wide adhesion that no-one will be prepared to do these vital voluntary tasks in the future, the main losers being the generations of kids who will no longer be able to enjoy that freely-given support, guidance and help. The process started when the CRB checks came in, but at least that was a formal, if imperfect, process – far worse is the public ‘innuendo label’ which will soon be automatically applied to all who try to help young folk in any sphere, not only the traditional scout and choir targets.

    And therein lies the sadness, a genuine, valuable and long-established ‘big society’ activity risks being lost for all time because the mis-deeds of a few cause the vast majority to be falsely labelled along with them, so the good-guys will just avoid that risk by absenting themselves. In the future, the ‘brave ones’ will be those who still offer such coaching, rather than the public victims who currently wear the ‘bravery’ gong.

    My sympathies will always lie with anyone physically, mentally or sexually abused by another, whatever their age or circumstances, but keeping a sense of proportion about it is something we should all aim to do, but which I am equally sure the witch-hunting media and ill-focused police will make as difficult as possible for us to maintain.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, I was determined not to let curiosity get the better of me with this one but then the sofa full of weeping ex-footballers appeared on the television news (here in Spain!). There’s no escape…

    Er, without wishing to be cruel it’s hard not to answer the question ‘But why now?’ with the following:

    “Woodward spent 12 years in the police after his football career had ended but encountered problems of his own and was dismissed LAST WEEK after a disciplinary tribunal for having a relationship with the adult sister of a crime victim.”

    From dismissal to the comforting embrace of daytime telly in the space of a few days! Perhaps I’ve grown too cold and cynical after watching so many spivs & grifters spout such endless nonsense about Jimmy Savile, but that is one masterful piece of ‘news management’.

    I’m not entirely sure if Woodward testified against Bennell 19-years ago or not ; the wording here is vague which leads me to guess ‘probably not’:

    “Bennell was sentenced to nine years in prison in 1998 after admitting 23 specimen charges of sexual offences against six boys aged nine to 15. Woodward was among the victims at Crewe…”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. (Please see reply to Lisboeta below: the paragraph detailing Woodward’s dismissal by the police was absent from the original Guardian article.)


  4. Another 21st Century paradox – one week we’re being told that it’s impossible to ‘come out’ because of ‘the culture of the sport’ is blatantly homophobic, the next we’re being assured that every promising footballer was bummed into submission whilst young boys and that everyone in this ‘homophobic sport’ turned a blind eye to predatory ‘poofters’.

    As you do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are mistakenly conflating child sexual abuse with homosexuality. In a Venn diagram, there might be some overlap, but the two circles would have large areas all to themselves.

      As you know.

      Or should.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Paul Stewart’s claim of being assaulted every day for four years by a football coach ( is similar to this claim of being raped every day for four months by a prison officer ( and makes one wonder if the abusers ever had a day off work – and whether the accusers were making an extreme claim in the hope of maximising a compensation payout. In this article (, Chris Unsworth is reported to have said that Bennell sometimes had two or three boys in the bed at once and Jason Dunford is quoted as saying about another coach “he had me and two others over to stay the night before a game, and we all stayed in the same bed”. It seems a bit odd that both coaches would have the same modus operandi.


  6. Have read Bandini’s links. It appears that Woodward is, amongst other things, mentally unstable. And also that his recent claims were deliberately timed. I’m not sure how strong a connection one can make between being abused in childhood and becoming an abuser in later life? Although it does happen, at the same time not every childhood victim morphs into an adult abuser. Maybe many other factors at play?


    1. To be honest, Lisboeta, I started to half regret posting one of those links as the site seems a little, er, accusatory. Nevertheless, there is some interesting information such as the following: the original Guardian article made no mention whatsoever of Woodward’s very recent dismissal from the police force (although it was later added):

      This begs the question of whether this information was known to the journalist (but withheld from publication for some reason) or if it only came to their attention once the latest Savilesque train had already departed from the station. Neither would be particularly flattering to Daniel Taylor (but my money is on the least flattering version: he didn’t know & was royally played).


      1. I was a little concerned about the first of your two links, Bandini…of course, I have no reason to doubt the quality of the second (Daily Mail)…and of course it’s not the first time you’ve sent me off to read dizzying reports of dubious behaviour. Actually, I was tempted to suggest to the guy that he might get himself into serious hot water over his most recent offering on text messages – it appears that he may have identified a victim. But, oh, what a tangle.

        I’m glad you’ve pointed out that the first version of the Guardian piece didn’t include mention of the dismissal – I’m sometimes not especially observant but, I hope, not quite that blind. it was included by the next day, according to wayback. Surely, it would be normal practice to add an explanatory note at the bottom of an article which had been amended. Is the g trying to pull a fast one?

        It might be worth noting that the original item was written by a footie reporter, and not a proper journalist, though I’m not sure whether the paper has many proper journos left. It does begin to make me wonder whether my description of this as a ‘campaign’ was a little unfair. Perhaps the poor fools got taken for a ride.

        I do recommend the Dispatches on Bennell, if you’ve not seen it yet.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It would seem that the story had been a few months in the making.


      3. Thanks for that link, Misa. I didn’t really want to spend any more time on this, but I ended up watching it – quite dignified and restrained by today’s standards…

        Bennell has now been charged with further offences alleged to have taken place more than three decades ago. I’m puzzled by the narrative now being hammered home by the media when the realtity seems quite distinct. He was first arrested in 1994 – a single complainant (a child) made a non-historic allegation which was accepted by the courts (and admitted by Bennell). Off to jail he goes.

        When he is released and returns to the UK he finds multiple charges awaiting him (probably in part due to the Despatches programme which aired whilst he was banged up). These charges obviously relate to the period prior to 1994. Given the number of victims specimen charges were made; Bennell admits his guilt, is convicted and receives a lengthy sentence.

        Fast forward to 2013 and another complainant emerges:
        “Because he was abused in the period covered by the UK trial, the CPS told Mr Lean it was unlikely his evidence would have made any difference even if he had come forward in 1998.”

        For that reason they decide not to charge Bennell. The complainant appeals that decision and is successful – Bennell is charged, admits his guilt & is once again convicted.

        (This complainant seems a bit put out by the soccer players grabbing all the attention:
        “While he is angered that it took professional footballers for the public and the authorities to pay attention, he hopes it may encourage others to come forward.
        “I am angry because I started this process [in 2013…] and no one listened to me, and a footballer comes forward and everybody listens.””)

        Now we have charges made in 2016 relating to alleged offences taking place more than three decades ago. At the time of his 2015 conviction his lawyer spoke on his behalf:

        “Defending Bennell, barrister Laban Leake said his client was now ‘not a risk’.
        “He’s fully aware that, in his own words, he’s a monster,” he added. “His depravity has got the better of him and the consequence of that is that he has ruined lives…he does express remorse.”
        He said that when Bennell – who at one point also had a close association with Stoke City and Manchester City football clubs – was released from prison in 2004, having been sentenced to nine years, he was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue and lost the ability to swallow.
        He also told the court that Bennell had been forced to move because of vigilantes.”

        I know that lawyers often claim that their client expresses remorse, etc., but so far as I can see all Bennell’s crimes took place before his first imprisonment (1994). Children or young adults (94 and 98) made allegations which were investigated – ‘believed’, even! – and he was rightly jailed. If his obsessive offending ground to a halt at this point then surely this is how the system ideally ought to function.

        If he is guilty of further offending post-94 then that would change things, but otherwise isn’t this a ‘success story’? Why are we being conned into thinking that children’s cries went unheeded when the very opposite appears to have been the case?

        I’d be interested in reading Bennell’s 2012 interview in The Times which I haven’t been able to locate; the snippets included in other articles might be seen as showing him accepting the misery he caused (decades ago) though it’s hard to be sure without the full context.


      4. Not sure where this is going to come out, Bandini, but it’s in response to your 30 Nov comment.

        I think he pleaded not guilty in 1998. The most recent case – post Savile – he pleaded guilty.

        I see the Derbyshire lad from Dispatches has been in the newspapers in the past few days.

        The comments from the two football club officials bear upon the discussion of Chris’ point (windsock & tdf). They seem to (mis)understand this as a homosexual thing…having suspicions that Bennell might have been ‘the other way’…talk of macho culture and ‘it’ not being expected.

        Like you, I’m not really sure of the profile of this Vine chap (son of David the sports commentator?) but if he works for any media organisation, he should have been sacked faster than you can say Eric Bristow.

        I too don’t understand why he needs a further trial. If he’s been to court over ‘specimin charges’, surely that’s an admission that there was more, but it was not felt necessary to take each individual count before a court. I’d be most interested to hear a lawyer’s explanation. I appreciate that new serious charges may come to light after someone has been sentenced for a selection of offences, but this just appears to be more of the same. If it was ten or a hundred, would it make a difference? The guy’s done his time…three times…are we just going to keep beating up on him until he succeeds in topping himself?

        I’m seriously concerned for the psychological well-being of our motherland.


      5. Misa, judging by the news archive it looks like in 1998 he initially denied the claims but then accepted some of them in court:
        “Bennell, 44, admitted 19 offences of indecent assault against boys and four more charges of a serious sexual nature… … Twenty two other charges of a similar sexual nature, denied by the defendant, were ordered to lie on the file by Judge Hew Daniel… … Defending, Mr Peter Birkett said his client had at least pleaded guilty to save the victims the ordeal of coming to court. But, he added, he was not instructed to justify Bennell’s conduct.”

        (I always wonder about deals being done between defence & prosecution when reading things such as above, or maybe defendants simplyt following the advice of their lawyer; I tried wheedling the truth out of Tom O’Carroll over on AR’s site a while back as he too had changed a plea from ‘not guilty’ to ‘guilty’ as other charges vanished… no luck!)


  7. Quite why and how this ‘old news’ story has erupted in this way I don’t know. But at a glance I would say that the fact that the FA is the biggest pot of gold in sport and that it would be vicariously liable for any abuse following high and supreme court rulings just before Savile in 2012 (JGE v Portsmouth Diocese and the St Williams case re the Christian Brothers) would tend to suggest a compo driven begging bowl for lawyers and associated interested parties.
    Fact is that the NSPCC has had a dedicated Child Protection Unit since 2001 and the likes of many abuse consultants (including Mark Williams Thomas in rugby) have provided protection packages to sports bodies and clubs across the board. Guess the fans pay at both ends – protection and compo.

    Prior to this there was a big push about abuse in sport in the 90s – Celia Beckenbridge making dire predictions of victim numbers. There was a high profile swimming coach conviction and there have been things about gymnasts and other sports.
    Like all such things the possibility of false allegations in trawls or begging bowl exercises is huge.
    However in research published by the NSPCC in 2011 from a self-selected survey attracting over 6000 replies among the 18-21 age group – conducted between 2007 and 10 sexual harassment/abuse figures reported were very low by coaches and other adults – greater among peers,while undue pressure to perform attracted much higher figures.

    I suppose one might say this demonstrated that that the NSPCC unit was functioning well since it would cut out abuse before the mid to late 90s by sample but it has to be said that there was alot of publicity about the issue and urging to report, including historical stuff, in the late 90s and beyond.

    What worries me more about this over hyping and measures taken is the effect it has on teaching.
    In teaching musical instruments for instance, the NSPCC have a demo video about no touch teaching.

    But placing the hands on the student for posture, balance and touch is an essential form of correction – as it is in dance, crafts and surely most sports – tennis for instance. It’s the difference between having a live personal tutor and watching a video. I don’t know about football – but there’s also the camaradarie and encouragement factor. And no idea how they can teach rugby scrums.

    Now seems inevitable we have a new round of ‘no touch’ berating across the board. All because there are/were a few pervs who were either prosecuted previously or were not perhaps so serious as to be prosecuted at the time and slunk into retirement. Most kids can suss out ‘creeps’ pretty smartly anyway.

    Meanwhile anyone previously accused in the care/teaching world who happened to supervise a sport will be at risk of being raked over the coals yet again. Re-prosecutions are now the default case building/manufacturing method of the police and CPS. They have no shame.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “As with earlier ‘paedo scandals’, the thing at greatest risk is proportion.
    I have no doubt that some coaches in sports which attract youngsters were themselves attracted to that role because of the opportunity it provided to exercise their own unconventional interests, and if they’re professionals like the football cases, they’re even getting paid for it: it must feel like winning the lottery.”

    Inclined to agree, Mudplugger.

    I just wonder if some of this is in reaction to the Henriques report?

    That’s not to deny, of course, that abuse exists in coaching of youth sports. Logically, it seems that predators will seek employment where there might be potential prey.

    Before the clerical abuse scandals erupted in Eire, there were some notorious cases involving paedophile swimming coaches…some genuinely nasty deviants were involved:


  9. “There was a high profile swimming coach conviction”

    Margaret, are you thinking of one of the former Irish swimming coaches referenced in the above link? I don’t think there is any serious doubt about their guilt. Indeed, one effectively escaped justice and emigrated to the US.


  10. Jeremy Vine, who I think is someone in the media, tweeted as follows:-

    “It is very important that this man does not take his own life before he is confronted by every one of his victims”

    That’s not about justice, is it. It’s about vengeance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I spotted this myself, TDF. I think I must have escaped the UK before Vine rose to such undeserved prominence…

      Given that Bennell had been in hospital “after being found unconscious” the message from Vine comes across as, frankly, sick. Let’s stick him on a life-support machine and keep his heart pumping (and the cameras rolling) until each of his victims can ‘confront’ him…

      (Bah, thoughts not flowing freely this morning but I’ll continue in reply to Misa above.)

      Liked by 1 person

  11. November 28, 2016 at 7:05 am

    You are mistakenly conflating child sexual abuse with homosexuality. In a Venn diagram, there might be some overlap, but the two circles would have large areas all to themselves.

    As you know.

    Or should”.


    Incidentally, to change subject slightly, it seems that a researcher cited in the Daily Mail recently is being attacked by certain Twitter campaigners of the ‘I believe Nick’ type. (‘Nick’, for the benefit of those not following the continuing developments in this story, was the pseudonym of the man who made allegations about a vast child abusing and child murdering network involving former politicians, senior military figures, and intelligence service head honchoes).

    It seems that this researcher transitioned from male to female a few years’ back, and certain Twitter campaigners are criticising her on that grounds alone. It seems to me that there is an element of transphobia in some of their comments. They are fully entitled to critique her research and/or views, but if their grounds for doing so are purely because she is trans, then that is transphobic.


  12. @tdf No it was a UK Olympic swimming coach Paul Hickson convicted in 1995. He always maintained his innocence and it was a police trawl. 17 years and died shortly after release. His appeal failed and he was attempting to got to the CCRC. Recently I saw that there was a woman who lives in the US who is running a campaign in the US re abuse in swimming and she said she was also a victim of his. She is an ex-wannabe Olympic swimmer too. The sport coach abuse campaign was highlighted in the US just before the Olympics and I’m guessing will migrate here too. All about liability and compo.


  13. @Margaret Jervis

    In relation to the Paul Hickson case, what evidence is there that this was a police trawl?


  14. Late comment. Remember the vast majority of victims r abused by family members and as children. Therefore we never get justice and financial compensation would not really be available. The impact on wellbeing as adults isMASSIVE


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