Abuse victim: FA and football clubs should have protected me from monster

Ian Ackley Credit: ITV News

A former trainee footballer who was one of the first victims of paedophile scout Barry Bennell to speak out about his abuse has told ITV News he blames the FA and the clubs who employed the monster for failing to protect aspiring players.

Ian Ackley, 48, says Bennell raped him more than 100 times between 1979 and 1983, when he was between the ages of 10 and 14. His abuser was a coach with links to Manchester City during that time, before moving on to Crewe Alexandra.

Mr Ackley helped put Bennell behind bars in 1998 after he appeared as a witness in a trial of specimen charges of child abuse.

The former youth player, who now works in property maintenance, appeared in a television documentary about the paedophile's activities but said he was shocked when FA bosses and the clubs where Bennell had worked failed to apologise for what he had been through.

The father of four today told ITV News he had quit football as a result of the abuse he suffered when he was an aspiring player at an amateur side in Derbyshire.

Describing the abuse, he said: "It was very quickly after I started to play for him, I was invited to stay at his house. Almost immediately on the first occasion the abuse started, and it continued.

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"All I can describe it as is being fixed and frozen and scared and not really knowing what to do, and not feeling like I could say anything to anybody as he was this big important figure who was very charismatic and who everyone thought was the bees' knees."

Mr Ackley, who lives in north London with his family, added: "We went away to Spain on football trips, he took me to Butlins holiday camps and it happened there. I spent an incredible amount of time with him over the three and half years that the abuse took place.

"I was raped hundreds of times. I would go on a Friday and often not come back until Sunday. It was pretty much every school holiday. It was anywhere and everywhere that he could take advantage.

"You lose a little bit of yourself, you shut down. That's the only way I can describe it.

"It's incredibly important what Andy Woodward has done in coming forward, it's incredibly brave. And it's given other people the strength to come out. Hopefully we can start to lay some of those demons to rest. I genuinely hope that there is an opportunity for those people to get the support and help that they need."

Ian Ackley was one of the first people to speak out against coach and scout Barry Bennell

He added: "I struggled over the years with depression, with anxiety. I find it very hard to trust anyone. You think you've dealt with it but it just comes back again. It's not done by a long way."

Mr Ackley said some of his peers in youth football suspected Bennell was a paedophile but said no adults had ever taken the rumours seriously.

He said: "At the time, there was one other person who was being regularly abused and stayed at Bennell's house at the same time as I did. We knew what was happening to us. I knew that other boys were invited to stay there and there were other people.

"Other people, and boys in the clubs that we played for made jokes and made fun of us for staying at his house and made jokes that there was something going in. I believe some of the parents of some of those children also heard the jokes.

"But nobody ever took it seriously that we were at risk. It was a joke, it was something we were made to feel small and embarrassed and humiliated about."

Wembley Stadium

Mr Ackley went public about what had happened to him in the late 1990s after Bennell was arrested at a football camp in America and extradited to face trial in the UK.

He was one of six former youth players contacted by police who agreed to give evidence against Bennell at his trial.

He later appeared in a Channel Four documentary about the case and told of the horror he had experienced.

But today, Mr Ackley said he had been horrified the case failed to receive wider attention.

And he said he believed the clubs which had employed Bennell and the Football Association itself should carry some responsibility for using football as a cover to abuse children.

Speaking about the reaction after he spoke publicly about what had happened to him, Mr Ackley said: "Nobody wanted to know. I chose to walk away from the sport because of my experiences within in it. In the middle of playing at a club, I handed in my boots and I chose to walk away.

"I'm not a public figure, I'm not a former England footballer or a player who has made it to the professional stages - so there was no interest there."

Mr Ackley described Andy Woodward, who has spoken out about his abuse, as 'incredibly brave' Credit: ITV News

He added: "If it takes Andy Woodward and other public figures to bring these matters forward and force people and organisations to do something then that's a good thing. I think it's a very sad state of affairs that just because I was an ordinary person and tried to do the right thing 20 years ago I was ignored.

"The whole thing was a nonsense. There were six of us who came forward. He was prosecuted not even for the things he did to us but for specimen charges. It was a dirty little subject that people wanted to get brushed away under the carpet. Nobody wanted to be associated with it.

"It's time people said 'Yes, we made a mistake. We didn't keep these children safe.' They failed in their duty of care to us.

"I think those individuals who employed Barry Bennell or made him an associate of their clubs, those people should have had a responsibility to care for those children in their charge but they failed. Those people should be accountable.

"The organisations, the clubs themselves had an obligation to ensure that the people they employed were acting in a proper way. They failed to do that, and I think they should be accountable.

"More importantly, I think the FA surely have an obligation to ensure that organisations under their control and making sure that children are being protected and that their welfare is paramount.

Ian Ackley told ITV News he still suffers from anxiety Credit: ITV News

"They are the people for me who should be held accountable. They for me are equally as responsible as Bennell because they allowed him to prey on weak and vulnerable young people for years.

"He took me to [the Manchester City] grounds and he was treated as one of their own. They definitely should be held responsible. Crewe Alexandra employed him and they should be responsible.

"For Crewe to come out and say that they need some time to digest what is going on because they knew nothing about it is quite frankly a lie. Because 20 years ago there was a blanket denial and nobody was available for a comment. They knew about it but they wouldn't admit it.

"Manchester City went one stage further, by saying they thought there was something wrong about him and they assumed something wasn't quite right but he actually produced the goods so a blind eye was turned.

"Which one was worse? That's an ever bigger slap in the face to me. That's like saying 'We know Ian, we know. But you're the cost of what we have here in the first team so that's just football'.

"That's why I walked away."

Crewe Alexandra director of football Dario Gradi has denied knowledge of the abuse Credit: PA

In response, Manchester City released a statement which said:

Crewe Alexandra director of football Dario Gradi spoke earlier on Thursday, saying he knew nothing on Bennell's abuse of young footballers at the time.