Paul Stewart: I'm almost sure football child sex abuse is still happening

Former England player Paul Stewart has told ITV's This Morning he is "almost sure" young footballers are still being sexually abused as he described the impact of his own trauma in an emotional interview.

"I'm almost sure it's still happening," he said. "I think it's a great preying ground, a sports environment, because you start as a kid."

Stewart, who starred in his career for Liverpool and Tottenham, said he was haunted by the past abuse he kept secret from his wife and family until this week.

The 52-year-old was one of the first former professional footballers to come forward to describe the four years of sexual abuse he suffered as a child by his coach in the early 1970s prior to signing for Blackpool.

"All the trauma I went through and all the memories I’d locked away, I was almost cold," he said.

"I've never been able to put my arm round my children and say the words that I love you. This week I don't think I've ever cried as much in my life, I'm 52 now, than I have the past few days."

Stewart said he was abused until the age of 15 and had lived in fear as his family's lives were threatened.

"Systematically over the four or five years, they gain the trust of your family. They make threats all the time that as a youngster you do actually believe they will follow through... and then when you get away from it, you want to try and lock it away and move on if you possibly can."

Stewart said he was motivated to end his silence after being "inspired" by Andy Woodward, the first former professional to speak out.

Former professionals (from left) Andy Woodward, David White, Steve Walters, and Paul Stewart have all described being abused. Credit: PA

"I was worried that his story may sort of fade into insignificance if he didn't get any support from anybody else, so after soul searching and speaking to my family over the weekend, after the story broke, I decided to tell my story because I thought it was the right thing to do," he said.

Although he said he believed abuse was still taking place in the sport, Stewart said he believed it was harder for abusers to prey on their young victims.

"I believe the checks are more stringent now," he said. "It was more tabooed 41 years ago, when it first happened to me, to come out and say anything, there was a blame put on you because people wanted to sweep it under the carpet."