16th February 2018
Victims of the paedophile ex-Crewe Alexandra football coach, Barry Bennell, want the club to say sorry.
They believe the club knew more than they are admitting at the time and might have even been able to stop Bennell abusing some youngsters.
The 64-year-old was found guilty of 43 child sexual offences at Liverpool Crown Court on Thursday. It will be the fourth time he is jailed for crimes of this nature.
Almost immediately after the jury delivered their final verdicts, victims told the world how they felt about Bennell and the response of the clubs that they worked for.
Steve Walters is a former Crewe Alex player and has waived his right to anonymity. Speaking outside the court he said: “We suffered because of a disgusting predator. But we also suffer sometimes because the sport we love decided that the reputation of a coach, a club or a sport was put above the protection of children.”
Andy Woodward famously waived his right to anonymity in 2016 when he spoke out about the abuse he suffered to let the world know about Barry Bennell and encourage others to come forward, and that they did.
He said: “The football clubs that were accountable for this, that could have stopped this for so many years, and so many of us, and some aren’t even still with us now. That could have been stopped.”
“I would personally like, now after 15 months [since he spoke out] an apology from Crewe Alexandra for what happened to us boys.”
He also previously worked as a scout for Manchester City who say they are still carrying out their own investigation into sexual abuse of children at the club.
Crewe Alexandra FC have issued a statement in which they have not offered any apology.
They also deny they knew anything about Barry Bennell’s abuse at the time it happened despite former Director, Hamilton Smith, saying the issue was raised in the late 1980s.
The statement reads: “Crewe Alexandra Football Club would like to express its deepest sympathies to the victims of Barry Bennell.”
“The Club would like to reassure all those who have been affected by this case that the Club has worked closely with the police throughout and provided full cooperation, transparency and assistance with their enquiries. The Club will continue to provide that cooperation as and when required.”
“Since November 2016 the Club has dedicated a significant amount of time and resources to locating historic information and documentation about Mr Bennell, both in connection with the preparation of its own internal review and the provision of information and documentation to the relevant authorities. This documentation includes voluminous files relating to an unsuccessful compensation claim brought by Andy Woodward against the Club in 2002 in which the Court found no evidence that the Club had knowledge of any abuse committed by Mr Bennell.”
“The Club would therefore like to reiterate that it was not aware of any sexual abuse by Mr Bennell, nor did it receive any complaint about sexual abuse by him, either before or during his employment with the Club. Mr Bennell was employed by the Club for two periods between January 1985 and January 1992. On both occasions, he left for football-related reasons. The first the Club became aware of any offences committed by Mr Bennell was when he was arrested in the United States in 1994. The Club co-operated fully with the police investigation in relation to the prosecution of Mr Bennell in 1997/98. The Club also cooperated fully in the production of the Dispatches programme that was broadcast around that time.”
“Further, the police have recently undertaken a thorough investigation to determine what knowledge Crewe Alexandra may have had of Mr Bennell’s offending whilst he was employed as a coach, which involved interviewing a significant number of individuals, including a former director of the Club, Hamilton Smith. As a result of their investigations, the police found no evidence to corroborate that the Club was aware of Mr Bennell’s offending.”
Barry Bennell will be sentenced on Monday when he will physically appear in Liverpool Crown Court for the first time during these legal proceedings.
He has only appeared via video link until this point.