London (AFP) – Former coach Barry Bennell, who is at the centre of a scandal rocking English football, was on Tuesday charged with eight counts of child abuse, prosecutors said.
Bennell, who has already served three jail terms for previous child sex offences, has faced a slew of new allegations by at least 20 former footballers spanning three decades beginning in the 1970s when he was working for Crewe Alexandra, Manchester City and Stoke City.
“Following a review of the evidence, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, Mr Bennell, 62, has today been charged with eight offences of sexual assault against a boy under the age of 14,” said a statement from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Bennell, who it was revealed on Monday had to be hospitalised when he was found unconscious in a hotel near London, will appear in court on December 14.
The latest charges stem from Cheshire Police but six other police forces are investigating accusations made against Bennell in a scandal Football Association Chairman Greg Clarke has called “the greatest crisis” in English football he could recall.
Former Newcastle player Derek Bell, who waived his anonymity to the Guardian, claimed he was subjected to “horrendous” sexual abuse at his local boys football club in the 1970s.
“It was pure, unbelievable heartache. Thinking my mam and dad were next door and he was performing these sexual acts. He had groomed us for a couple of years and he thought it was normal,” Bell said.
“Deep down in my mind I knew it wasn’t normal, but I was so scared to speak and come out and say it wasn’t right.”
Former Northern Ireland international Mark Williams spoke out, with Sky News revealing he had waived his anonymity to describe his torment.
“My life has been affected irreversibly both personally and professionally and it has been soul-destroying to carry this burden for 30 years,” he said.
Police Scotland have also confirmed they have launched a probe following abuse allegations north of the border.
The FA has also launched its own internal review appointing leading lawyer Kate Gallafent, an expert in child protection, to head it up.
The British Government announced on Tuesday they will bring the police and the FA together for a meeting on the developing scandal.
Clarke took over as FA chairman in August and has already had to deal with the removal of Sam Allardyce as England coach over comments he made in a newspaper sting and the ‘poppygate’ row with FIFA.