LONDON (Reuters) - British police said they had launched an investigation into allegations of historical child sex crimes at London soccer clubs following a wave of reports from former players that they had been abused as youngsters.
Last week, police said about 350 victims had come forward to report sexual abuse within soccer clubs across the country from the 1970s onwards and indicated the number was likely to rise.
The revelations of the attacks suffered by former professionals have raised fears that sexual predators had for years been using their roles at clubs to prey on young players.
“We take all the allegations we receive very seriously and they will be dealt with sensitively,” Det. Chief Supt Ivan Balhatchet from London police said in a statement.
“Anyone who has been a victim of sexual abuse, whatever the circumstances, or has any relevant information should contact their local police or the NSPCC (charity).”
The investigation will look at allegations involving London clubs although the police declined to say which ones.
On Saturday, Chelsea issued a public apology to former striker Gary Johnson for the sexual abuse he suffered as a young player and said it had been wrong to insist on a confidentiality clause when paying him compensation.
Johnson, 57, had revealed the day before that he had been abused by former Chelsea chief scout Eddie Heath in the 1970s, receiving 50,000 pounds from the club in settlement in 2015.
Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison