FA chairman says sex abuse scandal the ‘biggest crisis’

“I don’t know if there was a cover-up or not, I really don’t know,” said Greg Clarke

Football Association chairman Greg Clarke has admitted he does not know if historical sex abuse within the game was covered up as the authorities tackle the biggest crisis he can remember.

Speaking as police forces around the country investigate historical allegations from more than 20 former players, Clarke was asked if offences could have been swept under the carpet.

He told Sky News: “I don’t know if there was a cover-up or not, I really don’t know.

“I suspect like many big problems, people aren’t drawn towards them. My methodology is, if there’s a problem, run towards it, embrace it, fix it, disclose everything that happened.


“I think institutionally, all organisations in the old days used to protect themselves by keeping quiet and closing ranks. That’s completely inappropriate and unacceptable today.

“It’s certainly the biggest (crisis) I can remember. I think the moral consequences of failing to deal with some of these issues in the past we must get to the bottom of.”

Clarke also claimed society in general had been guilty of “sleep-walking” through the 1990s, unaware that offences were taking place.

He cited Operation Hydrant, a wide-ranging police investigation and the conviction of former British Olympic swimming coach Paul Hickson.

Clarke said: “I’m angry that society did nothing at the time. I looked at the evidence of Operation Hydrant — I think they are up to 2,500 people under investigation across churches, youth societies, prisons, politics, the media, sport — society seemed to have a total unawareness of the nature of the problem.

“The safeguarding rules were changed after an event in 1995 where the national swimming coach was convicted of mass child abuse, and that’s when society started to wake up, the rules came in, the criminal record checks.

“But in the 1990s, society was sleep-walking and we were part of that problem.”