CREWE, England (AP) — The chairman of one of the clubs criticized in a review of widespread sexual abuse of young players in English soccer quit on Thursday.
John Bowler was on the board at northwest club Crewe while Barry Bennell abused boys when working there as a youth-team coach in the 1980s and ’90s.
The English Football Association-commissioned independent review found it likely that Crewe directors discussed concerns about Bennell “which hinted at his sexual interest in children,” and that the club failed to check on youth players staying at Bennell’s house and likely did not act on warnings from police.
Bowler, who became Crewe chairman in 1987 after joining the board in 1980, said he always intended to step down after the Sheldon Review was released. He said he felt it was necessary to stay on during the inquiry, which was sparked by a wave of media testimonies of survivors of abuse in 2016, because he was “the only person left with an association to that era.”
“I will always be deeply appalled and sorry that these young players and their families suffered at the hands of this evil predator,” Bowler said in a statement.
“I personally and sincerely apologize to them all for their suffering.”
Victims of Bennell, who is in prison after convictions in 2018 and last year, had been calling for Bowler to resign.
“This was the very least that should have been expected and hopefully it clears the path for a new chapter,” The Offside Trust, an organization set up by survivors of child sexual abuse in sport, said.
Crewe plays in the third division of the English game.
The Sheldon Review examined sexual abuse in the game from 1970 to 2005.
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