Amid a growing investigation into the United Kingdom’s soccer development system and allegations of systemic sexual abuse, Football Association chairman Greg Clarke told BBC Sport Tuesday that he was “angry” and concerned about how the organization was run some 20 years ago.
Clarke was responding to accusations of abuse made by more than 20 former players over the last two weeks. His comments come on the heels of the FA’s weekend announcement that it was widening the internal investigation, the New York Times reported Sunday.
"1990s society was sleep walking and we were part of that problem,” Clarke said. "The moral consequences of failing to deal with some of these issues in the past we must get to the bottom of."
The criminal investigation, further spurred on Monday by member of parliament Damian Collins saying he wants to find out if the problem is part of the FA’s “culture,” now includes five police forces around the country.
Clarke called the “crisis” the biggest he could remember in the FA’s history, but also credited the speedy reaction to the allegations.
"I think we've acted very quickly, to be frank,” he said. "The main thing to do is not to encumber the criminal investigations of the police by tainting their evidence. We've agreed with the police that we won't talk to any of the victims formally, because they have to talk to them, they have to take statements and we're not allowed to interfere in that process."
A number of ex-players, now in their 40s and 50s, have waived their anonymity rights in order to speak out, starting with former Crewe defender Andy Woodward on Nov. 16. Woodward, 43, who later played for Bury and Sheffield United, told the Guardian he was abused by convicted abuser and former coach Barry Bennell between the ages of 11 and 15.
“My life has been ruined until the age of 43,” Woodward said. “But how many others are there? I’m talking about hundreds of children who Barry Bennell cherry-picked for various football teams and who now, as adults, might still be living with that awful fear.”
Since Woodward’s revelation, other players like Steve Walters, 44, have accused Bennell. Former Manchester City and Liverpool player Paul Stewart told the Mirror he was also abused for four years by a former coach who even threatened to kill his family if word of the alleged abuse ever got out.