Ben Rumsby, sports news correspondent, Telegraph
At least three of Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Crystal Palace joined Chelsea in being dragged into football’s child sexual abuse scandal on Tuesday night after Scotland Yard confirmed it was investigating allegations against individuals linked to four London Premier League clubs.
The Metropolitan Police Service became the first force to announce formally that teams from the world’s richest league had become engulfed in one of the biggest inquiries ever conducted into alleged crimes within sport, one it said affected 30 named sides from the capital.
The Met, which confirmed last Thursday that it had launched an investigation into accusations of “non-recent sexual abuse at football clubs in London” also revealed on Tuesday that officers from its Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command had received 106 separate allegations to date.
The force refused to confirm the names of the four Premier League clubs identified during its inquiry although there are currently only five such top-flight teams.
Seems a little unfair to the one team not being investigated.
The Daily Telegraph last month exclusively revealed that Chelsea had made a secret payment to an alleged victim of their former chief scout, Eddie Heath, putting the league leaders in the spotlight.
But, until Tuesday, Arsenal, Spurs, West Ham and Palace had all been untouched by the scandal, with the focus on the likes of Manchester City, Stoke City and Southampton in the Premier League and Crewe Alexandra and Newcastle United outside it.
Arsenal declined to comment on Tuesday night on the Met announcement, Chelsea cited their previous statements on the deceased Heath, Tottenham and Palace said they had not had any contact from the force, while a West Ham spokesman said: “To the best of our knowledge, we are not one of the clubs referenced.”
The Met also confirmed on Tuesday that two London Championship teams had come under scrutiny, a week after a Telegraph investigation revealed that Queens Park Rangers’ former youth development officer, Chris Gieler, had been accused of sexual offences against schoolboys and apprentices in the club’s system for a period spanning three decades.
The force announced that three clubs from the capital in Leagues One and Two and 21 non-League sides also formed part of its inquiry. Detective Chief Superintendent Ivan Balhatchet, of the Sexual Offence, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command, said: “The Met take all allegations seriously, and specialist officers will work through the information passed to them.
“The number of referrals, pieces of information and allegations will change. Officers will continue to work through the information that has been reported.”
Tuesday’s figures were released four days after the National Police Chiefs’ Council announced that 83 potential suspects had been identified from 98 football clubs across the country, with the age range of alleged victims spanning from seven through to 20, with 98 per cent of victims men.
The NPCC also confirmed 639 cases had been referred to police forces – more than 20 of which are investigating historic child abuse claims – either directly or via the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s football helpline.
That helpline was set up in conjunction with the Football Association, which is also conducting an internal review into historic child sexual abuse claims.
The Scottish FA announced its own independent review into allegations of wrongdoing on Tuesday night amid pressure to do so, including from Deputy First Minister John Swinney and former justice minister Cathy Jamieson.
The SFA said in a statement: “The Scottish FA has taken initial steps towards establishing an appropriate scope and terms of reference for an independent review.
“It is imperative that we take the necessary time and guidance to ensure this review complements the work of Police Scotland and focuses on processes and procedures in place both currently and historically in Scottish football.”
Meanwhile, former Crewe coach Barry Bennell is due in court on Wednesday morning charged with sexual offences against a boy under the age of 15.
Bennell, 62, is expected to appear at Crewe Magistrates Court via video link at approximately 10am.