Hampshire police probe historic child abuse in ‘football community’

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VICTIMS of child sex abuse in football clubs are being told: support is out there.

Specialist detectives in Hampshire are now probing historic allegations in the ‘football community’.

The force did not disclose when the allegations were made or where the abuse took place in the county.

It comes after several ex-professional players revealed abuse perpetrated by youth coaches across the country.

Hampshire FA has said that there will be help for anyone who wants to come forward.

A statement said: ‘The victims have shown such fantastic courage and strength by discussing this openly and publicly, giving others hope that they too can speak out freely and that the support is always at hand for them. Hampshire FA will offer help, comfort and support to whoever needs it and we wish to send this message out to anyone and everyone reading this now.’

Hampshire FA has not been approached as part of the investigation but a spokeswoman said it would co-operate if asked to.

A charity in Portsmouth has reminded any victims that support is available.

Kim Hosier is centre director at Portsmouth Abuse and Rape Counselling Service.

Parcs set up a men’s helpline 20 years ago after adults abused as children called needing help.

Kim said: ‘We’re seeing one or two coming forward and that gives strength for others.

‘It’s what we saw with Jimmy Savile.’

Kim added Parcs ‘would support people’ making steps to come forward but is not putting pressure on to do so.

‘It’s often difficult for men to come forward because of that macho culture,’ she said.

‘In Portsmouth we started a service for men 20 years ago as we had men abused as children and they didn’t have anywhere to go.’

The charity works with children and adults.

Five footballers have spoken out publicly about the abuse they suffered after another ex-player came forward.

Pompey Academy boss Mark Kelly said the sport involved trust but some have abused that power.

There is no suggestion either Mr Kelly or Pompey are linked to the police probe.

He said: ‘When you see things like that it’s a sad indictment. I think people following this up and looking into it is certainly what needs to happen.’

He added: ‘The first thing you want is for your kids to be safe.

‘It’s one of those situations which is full of trust, when you deal with young people of any age group. Unfortunately some people like to think they can abuse that power.’

He added he never experienced or saw abuse when he came through Pompey Academy in the 1980s but new safeguards are in place.

Mr Kelly said: ‘We have set progression totally in place if anything untoward, not only from our point of view, but if we feel the kids are in danger anywhere else.’

A force spokesman said: ‘Hampshire Constabulary’s Operation Marmion is investigating allegations of non-recent child abuse within the football community.’

n Call Parcs’ mens helpline on (023) 9266 9516 or the office on (023) 9266 9513.

n The FA and NSPCC’s 24-hour line is 0800 023 2642.

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