The Alexandra Stadium - Crewe Alexandra FC (1)

Crewe Alexandra have now issued an apology after the damning Clive Sheldon report into the scale of sexual abuse suffered by young footballers.

Eight clubs were named in the 700-page report, with the other seven including Barry Bennell’s first club Manchester City all issuing apologies while Crewe stayed silent.

But this afternoon, the Gresty Road club issued a statement saying it was “truly sorry” for what happened when paedophile coach Bennell abused potentially dozens of young boys during his time at the club in the 1980s and 90s.

Hundreds of young players from across South Cheshire were coached and played in the club’s youth sections throughout Bennell’s time there.

The club statement says: “The club is truly sorry if there were in fact any warning signs that ought to have led the club to do more.

“Had the club had any suspicion or belief that Mr Bennell was committing acts of abuse, either before, during or after he left the club’s employment, the club would have informed the police immediately.

“The club wishes to make it absolutely clear that it sincerely regrets and is disgusted by the terrible crimes committed by Mr Bennell upon many young footballers over a significant number of years.

sexual violence - barry bennell
barry bennell

“The despicable abuse committed by Mr Bennell was abhorrent and the club continues to have the deepest sympathy for the victims and survivors of Mr Bennell.

“The club fully understands the additional hurt and trauma to the victims and survivors of Mr Bennell which has been caused by the fact that no one at the club was aware of the offences being committed upon them at the time.

“The club whole-heartedly regrets and is sorry to every survivor of abuse that it was unaware of Bennell’s offending.

“The report of Clive Sheldon rightly acknowledges that for most of the period of Mr Bennell’s and others’ offending there was little or no guidance on child protection available to those working in sport or society in general.

“The club acknowledges that awareness of child protection matters and systems of safeguarding in football and in society have now improved considerably and safeguarding has become an integral part of the club’s everyday life.

“The club acknowledges however that improvements to safeguarding can always be made and the club accepts the recommendations made by Clive Sheldon QC to ensure our safeguarding procedures remain as robust as possible.

“The club also acknowledges the contributions made by all individuals to the report of Clive Sheldon QC and reiterates its deepest sympathy to all those victims and survivors of Mr Bennell.”

The Sheldon report states that it was “likely” Crewe Alex directors at the time Bennell was at the club “did discuss concerns about Bennell, which hinted at a sexual interest in children”.

Sheldon also states in the report: “I am also satisfied that, during Bennell’s time at the club (Crewe) there were rumours circulating about him and his sexual interest in children which were heard by some of the club’s staff, including Dario Gradi.

“I consider that the club should have monitored Bennell’s activities and should have done more to check on the wellbeing of the boys who, to the club’s knowledge, were spending considerable amounts of time with Bennell.

“Had steps been taken, it might have led t boys making disclosures to the club.”

The Offside Trust, run by abuse victims including former Crewe Alex players like Steve Walters, has criticised the club and called for former manager Dario Gradi to be stripped of his MBE and his place in football’s Hall of Fame.

Gradi has denied knowing anything about the abuse Bennell committed, and the report is clear Gradi was not involved in any abuse.

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