Barry Bennell: What happened to Crewe and the Man City football manager who abused more than 20 boys

Whenever the topic of historical child sexual abuse in professional football comes up, the name of Barry Bennell comes up multiple times. Because the former football coach and scout’s crimes have become synonymous with a scandal that broke in 2016.

Bennell, now 68, was a former youth manager at Crewe Alexandra, Manchester City and Stoke City. A well-respected figure within football, he used his position to manipulate, intimidate and eventually sexually abuse young boys in hopes of fulfilling their dreams of becoming the next big football star.

He became a notorious figure while working at Crewe Alexandra, a club known for developing many talented young players, in the 1980s and 1990s. Bennell also had links with a number of junior teams in Cheshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Greater Manchester.

CONTINUE READING:Andy Woodward: The abuse victim of Barry Bennell whose bravery made the BBC film Floodlights possible

He has been involved in running youth football camps during the school summer holidays, including in North Wales. His crimes first came to light while he was running soccer camps across the United States.

Bennell was sentenced to four years in a US prison in 1994 for sexually abusing a 13-year-old British boy in Florida. After his release, he was arrested on his return to Britain.

A convicted paedophile, his predatory behavior was exposed to the wider British public in early 1997 through a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary entitled Soccer’s Foul Play. Then in 1998 Bennell was sentenced to nine years in prison at Chester Crown Court after admitting to 23 offenses dating back to the 1970s.

He was jailed for another two years by the same court in 2015. This time he pleaded guilty to two counts of inducing a boy under the age of 14 to commit a grossly indecent act in the early 1980s.

The pedophile soccer coach Barry Bennell
Bennell is serving a 34-year sentence after being convicted of more than 50 sex offenses against 22 boys dating back to the late 1970s

Several footballers came forward, waiving their anonymity, to describe how they had been abused by Bennell. They included ex-Sheffield United, Crewe Alexandra and Bury player Andy Woodward, who broke his silence in 2016.

In an article published in the Guardian, he said he was groomed and sexually abused by Bennell over a period of four years from the age of 11. This led to other footballers coming forward to describe similar ordeals, further police investigations and investigations by Crewe and Manchester City.

Bennell is now serving a 34-year sentence after being convicted of more than 50 sex offenses against 22 boys dating back to the late 1970s, following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court in 2018. During the trial, the judge described him as the “devil incarnate.”

A report on child sexual abuse in football from 1970 to 2005 cited “significant institutional failings in the Football Association when it was published in 2021 on BBC2 last week.

His bravery is said to have enabled more than 100 other victims to come forward and tell police and authorities about the abuse they allegedly suffered at Bennell’s hands. Eight men who were abused by Bennell while playing for school football teams he coached in the 1970s and 1980s also brought Manchester City to justice.

However, a High Court judge dismissed their claims for damages in January this year, ruling that the club cannot be held responsible for their abuse. The men are reportedly appealing the court’s decision.

Bennell is serving his sentence at HMP Littlehey, a prison for convicted sex offenders in Cambridgeshire. There has been some criticism of the prison in the national press. An article in The Star claimed that unlike other maximum security prisons like Wakefield and Frankland in County Durham, the regime there was too relaxed.

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