Football abuse: Survivor questions lack of punishment for FA and clubs over use of feeder teams

Football abuse: Survivor questions lack of punishment for FA and clubs over use of feeder teams

Ian Ackley spoke publicly about Barry Bennell in the 1990sAn abuse survivor has criticised the lack of punishment for the Football Association and clubs over the use of feeder teams where paedophiles operated.

Ian Ackley, who was raped hundreds of times by abuser Barry Bennell between 1979 and 1983, said the way feeder clubs worked allowed “hundreds, if not thousands” of young boys to be exposed to potential abuse.

He is one of 692 “known survivors” from football’s biggest child sexual abuse scandal.

A review led by Clive Sheldon QC looked at historical sexual abuse in both professional and grassroots football.

It focused on the period between 1970 and 2005 and culminated in a 710-page report, released in March.

That report said there were known to be “at least 240 suspects and 692 survivors” – with the actual number “likely to be far higher”.

It also said child abusers like Bennell and Ted Langford were working for feeder teams that had links to professional clubs, giving them “the cloak of responsibility and credibility to gain access to boys and lull them into a false sense of security”.

Bennell is serving a 30-year sentence while Langford, who was jailed in 2007, died in 2012.

Professional clubs were not allowed to have any association with boys under the age of 14, according to FA rules at that time.

“As far as I’m aware, the FA has never sanctioned any of its clubs for any of the abuse that happened to any of us,” Ackley told the Press Association.

The 50-year-old has called for an independent, government-funded body to police safeguarding within sports governing bodies.

While the Sheldon report found the FA guilty of “inexcusable institutional failing”, it did not recommend an independent body for further protection. Instead, a recommendation was that full-time safeguarding officers be introduced in the top two divisions and part-time safeguarding officers in the two divisions below that.

“If it is only designed to protect elite football and elite footballers, then we’re failing 99 or 96% of our population. To me that is quite frightening,” Ackley said.

Ackley was one of four survivors to feature in Football’s Darkest Secret – the BBC’s three-part documentary on historical abuse in football – and now runs the Survivors of Abuse service that is overseen by the Professional Footballers’ Association and joint funded by the PFA and FA.

The service is open to anyone connected to the game who has suffered historical abuse at elite or grassroot level.

He has called for funding into education and awareness, as well as prevention in the lower tiers of football to remove any further threat to young players.

The FA responded by saying: “Our safeguarding work continuously evolves, and we’re fully committed to ensuring the culture of the modern game has safeguarding at its heart.

“Our policies, standards, training, checks and procedures for managing referrals and concerns of all clubs and County FAs have consistently received a high level of confidence from the NSPCC Child Protection in Sport Unit.

“We are committed to continuing to work with football stakeholders, our survivor group and external safeguarding expertise to ensure we always meet the highest standards.”

Following the airing of Football’s Darkest Secret in March, Ackley’s client list has almost doubled as he continues to help other victims of sexual abuse.

“For most survivors it’s more about being able to draw a line in the sand and start looking forwards rather than looking backwards or walking backwards in life.”

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