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Victims in British sex-abuse scandal unite, call for justice

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) The man whose harrowing testimony of being sexually abused by a youth coach sparked an ongoing crisis in English soccer wants to take the issue to a global level.

“I can’t even begin to give you the numbers of people contacting me directly, not just footballers and ex-footballers but members of the public,” Andy Woodward told The Associated Press on Monday. “It’s everywhere.”

If he’s not too weary by the sheer scale of the scandal he helped to uncover, Woodward will fly to New York on Wednesday to speak to an American broadcaster about his 30-year journey from abused youth player to an inspiration to millions.

“I personally know that in America, there are certain things which have potentially happened there,” Woodward said. “It’s just about reaching out to everyone.”

Woodward was the first of a growing list of former soccer players to go public over the past three weeks about the ordeals they went through as youngsters.

The effect has been bigger than they could ever have imagined.

About 450 people have reported incidents of child sexual abuse at soccer clubs to 18 British police forces. A hotline set up by a children’s charity in response to sex abuse claims has taken about 1,000 calls in little more than a week. At least 55 clubs, professional and amateur, have been implicated in the story.

On Saturday, Chelsea – the current leader of the English Premier League and one of the biggest clubs in the country – apologized to a former player who was sexually abused while a member of the club’s youth team and who was paid 50,000 pounds ($77,500) to keep the matter out of the public domain.

The English Football Association, meanwhile, has started an internal review to re-examine its response to convictions of soccer coaches in the 1990s.

All this because Woodward was brave enough, after decades of anguish and soul-searching, to break his silence.

“I have no words for the emotion about how I feel about it all,” Woodward told the AP. “In my stomach, I knew there was a lot more (victims) out there.”

The scandal is sure to get bigger.

On Monday, Woodward and other victims launched an independent trust to support players – and their families – who have suffered from child abuse. The aim of the “Offside Trust” is to create a support network for victims, and establish a united front in the search for justice.

“We can’t let that happen again,” Woodward said at an emotionally charged news conference in Manchester. “We need to let players from this beautiful game we’ve got to be able to be free from (our) horrible experience and go on to be those footballers they are aspiring to be.”

Comments from a lawyer who sat alongside Woodward at the news conference, and who is helping to run the trust, sparked renewed concern about the scope of the scandal.

Ed Smethurst, managing director of law firm Prosperity Law LLP, said he was aware of other cases where soccer clubs have used confidentiality clauses in settlements with victims of sexual abuse. Smethurst also said he knows of people still involved in coaching who victims have spoken about and “certainly need further investigation.”

Woodward and other victims have become like a family. Clearly tense before the news conference, he and fellow victim Steve Walters embraced and nervously sipped water.

Walters – the second person to go public about sexual abuse he suffered as a young player – broke down at one stage, and didn’t want to answer certain questions.

“I’ve had over 50 different players get in touch with me (about abuse they suffered),” Walters told the AP afterward. “Some have been professionals, some are still in the game now, a lot of them have fallen by the wayside.

“There are sad stories that people have turned to drink, had broken relationships, one or two have had mental breakdowns. People don’t realize the mental torture it provides for you.”

Walters said a Belgian player contacted him to speak about his experience of being abused as a youngster, and that he has also spoken to people from Canada, the United States and Australia.

There are two things Walters and the others want to come out of all this.

“We want justice,” Walters said. “And we want our future children, especially those involved in sports, to be protected so something like this can never ever happen to a child again.”

Premier League player Power Rankings – Top 20

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For the final time in the 2016-17 Premier League season it’s time to rank the players in form.

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Stars from Chelsea and Tottenham dominate, just like they did all season, and we have plenty of players from Manchester City who also turned things on in the final weeks of the season.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League.

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections of the top 20 players in the PL right now.


  1. Harry Kane (Tottenham) – Up 1
  2. Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) – Down 1
  3. Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool) – Up 1
  4. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – Up 3
  5. Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea) – New entry
  6. Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea) – Down 3
  7. Dele Alli (Tottenham) – Down 1
  8. Heung min-Son (Tottenham) – Up 2
  9. Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) – Up 2
  10. Vincent Kompany (Man City) – Up 3
  11. David Silva (Man City) – Down 2
  12. Diego Costa (Chelsea) –Even
  13. Josh King (Bournemouth) – Down 6
  14. Gabriel Jesus (Man City) – Even
  15. Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea) – Even
  16. Victor Wanyama (Tottenham) – Up 2
  17. Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool) – Up 3
  18. Leroy Sane (Man City) – Down 2
  19. Fernando Llorente (Swansea) – Down 2
  20. Petr Cech (Arsenal) – New entry

Wenger update on Sanchez after Chile’s Bayern mix-up

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Arsene Wenger has (shock) remained tight-lipped about his own Arsenal future but has been talking about Alexis Sanchez remaining with the Gunners.

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Sanchez, 28, has just over 12 months left on his current Arsenal deal and the Chilean attacker is attracting interest from across the Premier League and Europe.

With 24 goals and 10 assists in the Premier League this season, Sanchez would obviously be a huge loss to the Gunners if he did move on.

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Speaking to the media ahead of the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday at Wembley Stadium, Wenger seemed to think his star forward wouldn’t be going anywhere this summer.

“We have nobody at the end of their contract so that will be completely our decision. Therefore, I just believe that we, the club, have a big job to do during the summer because you want to keep players like Alexis and end all the speculation that could happen…” Wenger said. “Alexis is not at the end of his contract. I would just like to remind you that the end of his contract is 2018. So that’s a completely different situation.”

Wenger appears to be stating that even if contract negotiations don’t go well with Sanchez and his representatives after the FA Cup final this weekend, the Gunners won’t be trying to offload him right away even though the fact they won’t be in the UEFA Champions League next season.

Sanchez could remain until next January and run his contract down to six months and then he’d be free to arrange a summer 2018 move to any non-English team. Of course, Arsenal wouldn’t get any cash for Sanchez if that happened but it appears that they intend to keep him around as long as possible as contract negotiations continue.

Wenger’s current mindset: “So you’re telling me there’s a chance…”


In other Sanchez-related news, did the Chilean national team release news about his future club?

When Chile sent out a graphic via their official Twitter account to announce their 23-man squad for the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia next month, they had a club logo next to the name of each player.

A Bayern Munich badge was next to Sanchez’s name before being removed rather quickly.

Add that to Sanchez’s countryman, and Bayern midfielder, Arturo Vidal, saying that the German giants having been asking him about his countryman and maybe the Bundesliga champs are all of a sudden the frontrunners to sign him?

Surely Arsenal’s board would much rather sell Sanchez overseas than see him join a direct Premier League rival if he was to leave this summer?

Messi loses Supreme Court appeal over tax-fraud conviction

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MADRID (AP) Lionel Messi has lost his Supreme Court appeal over a tax-fraud conviction in Spain.

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The court confirmed the 21-month prison sentence handed to Messi for defrauding tax authorities of 4.1 million euros ($4.6 million) from 2007-09. He is not expected to go to prison because sentences of less than two years for first offences are usually suspended in Spain.

The court maintained the 2 million euro ($2.24 million) fine handed to the Argentina player in last year’s trial.

Messi’s father, Jorge Horacio Messi, also had been convicted of tax fraud, but the court reduced his sentence from 21 months to 15 months because he cooperated by returning the defrauded money to the tax authorities. He also is not expected to face prison time.

Chelsea cancel Premier League victory parade

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Chelsea have announced they will not be parading the Premier League trophy through the streets of London this Sunday.

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The Blues released a statement on Wednesday detailing their decision to cancel the parade which would have seen the first team board an open top bus outside Stamford Bridge on May 28 and celebrate their PL title success, and a potential FA Cup trophy, with their fans.

However, due to the UK government updating the terror threat level to critical (meaning an attack is imminent) following the Manchester bombing on Monday which killed 22 people, Chelsea have decided to cancel the event as a mark of respect and due to the ongoing situation across the United Kingdom.

Below is the statement from Chelsea in full.

“Everyone associated with Chelsea Football Club offers our heartfelt condolences to those affected by Monday’s terror attack in Manchester. Our thoughts go out to all the victims, and their families and friends. In light of these tragic events, we feel it is inappropriate to go ahead with the victory parade in London on Sunday.

“Given the heightened security threat announced by the Government, and recognising that this is a developing situation, we have given this careful consideration. We strongly believe, in the interests of everyone, this is the correct course of action. We are sure our fans will understand this decision.

“Having consulted with the Metropolitan Police, Hammersmith and Fulham Council and other authorities, we know the emergency services would have been as professional as ever, but we would not want in any way to divert important resources by holding an additional, non-ticketed event on the streets of London.

“Furthermore, as a mark of respect, our players will wear black armbands at the FA Cup Final against Arsenal on Saturday. Chelsea Football Club will also make a donation to a fund supporting the victims of this horrific attack.”