A new three-part documentary commissioned by the BBC will examine the widespread child abuse which took place in youth football throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s.
Football’s Darkest Secret, which begins today (Monday 22 March at 9pm on BBC One) features interviews with several survivors of abuse at the hands of youth coaches including Barry Bennell, Bob Higgins, and George Ormand.
Some of the survivors describe their harrowing experience at the hands of these predators and the impact the abuse has had on their professional football careers and their lives outside of the sport.
One story which features in the documentary is that of former Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, and England player, Paul Stewart who describes how his child abuse ordeal left him with an ‘empty soul’, explaining that “Even at the very top, playing in a Cup Final, playing for England – I can honestly say that I did not enjoy it.”
The series was four years in the making with director Daniel Gordon beginning the project back in 2016 after news broke of numerous child sexual abuse allegations from former youth footballers.
Gordon explained that it was important that the documentary was told from the survivors’ point of view.
Speaking to Metro, Gordon said “It’s harrowing. It’s very real and it is very honest. I think once they took the decision to take part, they knew this was their chance to tell their story.
“We spent an awful lot of time with no cameras, just research, meeting up and talking, making them comfortable.
“It’s always been a survivor led film, and we were guided by them as to what they wanted to talk about. By the time we sat down for our interview, they were ready.”
The Extent of Child Abuse in Football
Since Andy Woodward first went public with his experience in 2016, it is believed that 340 football clubs have been implicated in child abuse allegations along with 240 suspects and more than 600 survivors. The actual number of survivors is likely to be far higher as many more will have chosen not to come forward.
A report into safeguarding failures and the handling of child abuse allegations which was commissioned by the FA has now been released in the hope of addressing where things went wrong and how to avoid any future instances of child sexual abuse in the sport.
If you or someone you know has experienced abuse at the hands of a coach or other adult within football or any other sport, we know it can be difficult to talk about. Our team of specialists at Farleys Solicitors will listen to your case and advise on the possibility of making a claim. All matters are discussed in the strictest of confidence and with the sensitivity required. Call our dedicated abuse line on 0330 134 6430 or contact us by email if you prefer.