LONDON—Authorities have identified 83 suspects linked to allegations of child abuse at professional and amateur soccer teams, British police said Friday, in an escalating scandal that is again rattling trust in a pillar of British society.
The announcement comes the day after a report said hundreds of police officers and personnel used their positions of authority to sexually abuse vulnerable people, some of whom were in custody at the time. According to the inquiry by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate Constabulary, police forces in England and Wales received 436 reported allegations of abuse of authority for sexual gain in the two years to the end of March.
In recent years, Britain has been stung by revelations of sexual abuse in some of its most respected institutions, prompting soul-searching about how such abuse persisted, in some cases for decades.
“The true magnitude of this is beginning to come through,” Mr. Best said. “I’m afraid we’re seeing the tip of the iceberg.”
In the latest case, hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse in U.K. soccer have emerged since the Guardian newspaper last month published the account of Andy Woodward, a former professional soccer player, who said he was abused by his coach.
Nearly 350 people have come forward to allege sexual abuse in soccer and other sports in recent weeks, most of them men who were between seven and 20 years old when the abuse happened, the National Police Chiefs’ Council, which coordinates police operations, said. The alleged offenses occurred between the 1960s and the early 2000s.
Chief Constable Simon Bailey said police were working closely with the governing body for soccer in England, the Football Association, as they conducted the investigation. “Allegations received by police forces across the country are being swiftly acted upon,” Mr. Bailey said.
The latest allegations raised pressure on the Football Association, which has launched its own inquiry into the allegations and what clubs knew about them at the time. Earlier this week, the organisation said it would disclose the findings of its review.
The U.K. has been hit by child abuse scandals in entertainment, politics and other areas since police investigations found entertainerJimmy Savile, who died in 2011, was a serial sex abuser. Mr. Savile had denied the allegations during his lifetime.
The allegations—which include claims dating back to the 1980s—have prompted a series of police investigations costing millions of pounds, and involving hundreds of witnesses and scores of arrests and prosecutions.
The U.K. in August named a prominent Scottish child-protection expert as the new head of a high-profile inquiry into child sex abuse. The previous head, Judge Lowell Goddard, became the third chairman to quit since the inquiry was established in 2014, raising fresh doubts about its effectiveness.
By Jenny Gross
Write to Jenny Gross at [email protected]