Crewe Alexandra FC may yet become the subject of a child sex abuse inquiry despite announcing earlier this month it saw no need to carry out one following an “extremely thorough” Cheshire police investigation.
Crewe, who had promised an internal review when the allegations against its former coach Barry Bennell first surfaced, is believed to be one of up to 12 clubs of particular interest to the man leading the current FA inquiry into historic sex abuse in football.
ITV News understands a number of those, as yet unnamed clubs, have been asked to provide Clive Sheldon QC with a “structured report” outlining the actions they took when they first faced allegations of abuse.
If he’s not satisfied with the contents of those reports, he has the power to launch his own investigation.
Where appropriate he can also recommend sanctions against the clubs and current or former members of staff.
Steve Walters, one of the former players abused by Crewe's youth coach Bennell and now heading up the Offside Trust, agreed on Wednesday that "clubs who haven’t provided sufficient reports should be investigated and have penalties off the back of it".
During his review, Sheldon has spoken personally to 29 former youth footballers who were sexually abused and hopes to meet up to another 15.
His team has also looked at testimonies from a further 100 survivors of abuse.
Sheldon's findings will now be released in September rather than next month as originally planned. The five-month delay is down to the volume of documents the inquiry team has been required to examine.
Walters believes waiting a bit longer is not a set-back :"We welcome the outcome of the FA inquiry and if it takes a few more months for it to be extensive, that is the main thing."
Of three thousand boxes of potential evidence held in the FA's vaults, each containing as many as two thousand pages, more than 950 have been identified as holding potentially relevant material.
The investigators have now uploaded half a million pages onto a digital platform and are reviewing that evidence.
They have earmarked 353 pages so far which include "highly relevant" information.
When he releases his conclusions, Sheldon intends to name clubs and individuals if he believes they were warned about allegations of abuse but did not take the correct steps. He may also recommend suitable sanctions to the FA.