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British football abuse victims as young as four – police

London (AFP) – Children as young as four may have been molested as part of the deepening sexual abuse scandal that has shaken British football, police revealed on Wednesday.

In an update on the scandal, Britain’s National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said there have been significant rises in the numbers of clubs implicated, suspects and potential victims.

A probe of child sexual abuse in Britain, Operation Hydrant, is looking at 148 clubs, 155 potential suspects and 429 victims aged from four to 20 at the time of the alleged offences. Most of it happened more than 20 years ago.

Several ex-professional players have come forward to allege abuse at the hands of youth coaches after Andy Woodward revealed last month he was abused by a convicted child molester at Crewe Alexandra.

The latest NPCC figures, which cover football from the popular Premier League down to grass-roots level, follow 819 referrals to Operation Hydrant.

Three-quarters of the referrals have come from a dedication helpline set up by England’s Football Association and charity the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).

The remaining referrals have come from British police forces.

Ninety-eight percent of the identified victims are male and the NPCC confirmed other sports have been cited.

There had been 639 referrals, 98 clubs implicated and 83 suspects at the time of the last NPCC update on December 9.

The NPCC is still urging victims of child sexual abuse in British football to come forward.

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