Victim criticises 'pathetic' FA investigation into child abuse claims

Letters which show the Football Association responding to allegations of child sex abuse by coach Barry Bennell have been described as "pathetic" by a victim.

The series of letters, shown exclusively to ITV News and dated from 1996-1997, include correspondence between the father of a victim, the Government, FA, PFA and Cheshire Police.

The victim, Ian Ackley, waived his right to anonymity to speak out about the abuse he received - and praised the effort of his father, Frank, who tried to get justice.

Mr 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, Barry Bennell, was a coach with links to Manchester City during that time, before moving on to Crewe Alexandra.

A letter from the FA to the Home Office in 1996 appears to acknowledge that youth football, as well as "other sports", could be vulnerable to abuse.

It says: "We have been following events in relation to the bringing forward of child protection legislation with considerable interest.

"We cannot express strongly enough the support of The Football Association for the introduction of legislation in this area as soon as possible.

"[But] the Football Association has been hampered by the inability to carry out a screening process in the same way as public bodies can."

"The sheer weight of numbers of those involved with youth football and the large number of different organisations involved presents great problems."

A letter from Cheshire Police incorrectly said his son was 'Stuart', instead of Ian. Credit: ITV News

The FA also set out four recommendations for the Home Office to adopt in a White Paper, with concerns for abuse highlighted in youth teams, coaching, referees and centres of excellence.

They also said "children taken on tours" are of "particular concern".

However in a short letter from the FA to Mr Ackley's father, dated February 1997, they say "it has not been legally possible for the FA to carry out its own screening process" without providing any further information.

In a note referencing the letter, Frank Ackley criticised the lack of "interest or enthusiasm" from the FA to investigate his concerns.

Ian Ackley has criticised the letters. Credit: ITV News

Speaking to ITV News after being shown the letters, Ian Ackley said: "Disappointment isn't really a strong enough word to use when I look at what is essentially a five, six line response".

Mr Ackley said he felt "devastated" at seeing the letters, which "offers no understanding, sympathy or empathy or any connection with what happened.

"When he [my father] goes to those places [Government and FA] and gets such a pathetic response, I think it's heart-breaking.

The letter, obtained by ITV News, suggested several proposals. Credit: ITV News

"It must have been heart-breaking for him. How he must've felt in telling me 'that's what we've said and that's what we've got', I can't really imagine.

"It just strikes me how my dad had a passion for trying to get some real justice for me.

"He was asking very relevant, pertinent questions to the FA and to the PFA - and to ministers in government."

Bennell was given a nine-year jail term in 1998 after being convicted of a string of sex offences against young boys.

He was cast into the public spotlight once again after several victims spoke out.