Potential victims in football abuse scandal as young as four

Latest figures from the National Police Chiefs' Council show potential victims in the football abuse scandal as young as four
Latest figures from the National Police Chiefs' Council show potential victims in the football abuse scandal as young as four

The age range for potential victims in the football child abuse scandal starts at four years old, the National Police Chiefs' Council has announced.

The scale of the scandal continues to grow as the latest figures from the NPCC show significant increases in the numbers of clubs implicated, referrals, suspects and victims.

According to the information gathered by Operation Hydrant, the UK-wide police investigation into non-recent child sexual abuse, 148 clubs are now involved, with 155 potential suspects and 429 victims, aged between four and 20.

These figures are the result of 819 referrals to Operation Hydrant, with about three-quarters of those coming from the dedicated helpline set up by the Football Association and child protection charity NSPCC last month and the rest from police forces.

Today's numbers show approximate increases of more than 50% on the last update from the NPCC on December 9, when there were 98 clubs implicated, 83 suspects and 639 referrals.

In a statement on the NPCC website, Chief Constable Simon Bailey said: "Allegations received by police forces across the country are being swiftly acted upon.

"We continue to urge anyone who may have been a victim of child sexual abuse to report it by dialling 101, or contacting the dedicated NSPCC helpline, regardless of how long ago the abuse may have taken place.

"We will listen and treat all reports sensitively and seriously. Anyone with any information regarding child sexual abuse is also urged to come forward."

Bailey added it was important that anybody with information gets in touch with the police in order to ensure there are no current safeguarding risks but acknowledged that the "higher than usual" number of calls is causing delays in doing follow-up interviews.

This issue has been flagged up by a number of the former footballers who have come forward publicly to tell the stories, with some still waiting to give formal statements more than a month later.

The NPCC data covers all tiers of football, from the Premier League to the grass-roots, and 98% of those identified as victims are male, aged from four to 20.

The NPCC confirmed that other sports have also been mentioned.