Former England international David White has said that he was the victim of sexual abuse by his coach, Barry Bennell, as a young footballer. The 49-year-old has become the fourth footballer in recent days to claim they were abused as they made their way through youth ranks at some of the UK’s most famous football clubs.
Former Crewe Alexandra player Andy Woodward waived his right to anonymity to reveal the abuse he suffered at the hands of Bennell. Now a serving police officer, the 43-year-old revealed that he was abused between the ages of 11 and 15.
Another ex-Crewe Alexandra player, Steve Walters, said earlier this week that he was abused by Bennell. Cheshire Police have confirmed that they had been contacted by 11 people who claim to have suffered abuse since Woodward went public.
White, who was capped once by the senior England football team, began his career with Salford Boys before he joined Manchester City.
He said that he played in a junior team that was coached by Bennell, who also ran teams in Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire. Bennell had links to a number of football clubs including Manchester City, Crewe and Stoke City.
According to the BBC, White said in a statement: “Given recent press stories I wish to confirm that I was sexually abused by my former football coach Barry Bennell in the late 70s and early 80s — this abuse took place while I was attached to Whitehill FC Junior team based in Manchester.
“For a number of reasons and for nearly two decades I kept my ordeal secret from my family and friends. While I believe throughout my football career I have come to terms with what had happened, I now realise the effects of Bennell’s actions were much more far reaching than I knew then.
“Last year I made the decision to gather my thoughts, reflect on my experience and tell my life story in my own words. I did not set out to write a story about the abuse, but knew I would have to include it.”
White added: “In doing so I have come to terms with the fact that Bennell’s actions influenced almost every event and relationship in my life. The process of writing the book became sometimes painful, always cathartic and incredibly liberating. I would like to say that I do not feel brave.
“This is just my story and I am now happy to tell it because despite the profound effects of 1979/80 I feel like one of the lucky ones.
“Circumstances took me away from the abuse before it escalated. I salute Andy Woodward, Steve Walters, and Paul Stewart for so bravely revealing their personal tragedies. The physical abuse they and others suffered was certainly more extreme and prolonged than my ordeal, and I cannot be sure that I would have their courage.”
Another international footballer Paul Stewart, who played for Manchester City in the 1980s, came forward to say he had been sexually abused by an unnamed coach as a youth player. White intends to speak about the abuse in a book entitled ‘Shades of Blue: The Hidden Torment of a Football Star’.
Bennell, who brought through a number of international players at Manchester City, was described by American authorities as having “almost an insatiable appetite” for young boys when he was jailed for four years for offences against a boy on a football tour.
Now 62, Bennell was sentenced to nine years in prison in 1998 after admitting 23 specimen charges of sexual offences against six boys aged nine to 15, with another 22 offences left on file.
Then in May 2015, he was handed a two year sentence after he molested a 12-year-old in Macclesfield in 1980. He is currently out on licence.
The FA is setting up a hotline for other potential victims and six more people who were previously coached by Bennell contacted Woodward directly.
• The NSPCC’s helpline is 0808 800 5000 or Child Line for children and young people can be contacted on 0800 1111.
• NAPAC, the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, can be contacted on 0808 801 0331.
• In the UK, The Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14.