New helpline for footballers who’ve experienced sexual abuse

Over 1,700 calls made to our helpline since its launch 3 weeks ago

We've received over 1,700 calls to our free helpline since it launched on 23 November1.

The helpline, which offers support to anyone who was sexually abused in football as a child, received:

  • 50 calls within the first 2 hours of opening
  • 860 calls in the first week2
  • over 900 calls in the last fortnight.

Supported by the FA, the helpline follows ex-football players Andy Woodward, Steve Walters and Paul Stewart recently speaking out about the abuse they suffered as young footballers.

Call our helpline

Don't wait to speak out if you experienced sexual abuse as a young footballer. Our free helpline can offer you support, 24 hours a day.

0800 023 2642

Calls resulting in referrals

Many of the calls to our helpline have resulted in referrals to external agencies, like social services or the police.

  • In the first 3 days we made 60 referrals, over 3 times the number made in the first 3 days of the Savile helpline1.
  • Over 90% of all referrals made by the helpline have been to the police2.
  • Police investigations into non-recent child sexual abuse in football are being overseen by Operation Hydrant.
  • A total of 819 referrals have been received by Operation Hydrant about non-recent child sexual abuse in football. Over 600 of these referrals came from the NSPCC helpline3.

Wayne Rooney and Alan Shearer back our helpline

Wayne Rooney

NSPCC Ambassdor, Wayne Rooney said:
''It's awful that some of my colleagues have suffered this way whilst playing the sport that I and they love. Andy has been really brave to come forward and I would encourage anyone who has or is suffering from abuse to call the NSPCC's new football helpline.

It's important that people know that it's ok to speak out, there is help available and that they don't need to suffer in silence."

The NSPCC and FA are urging players and others involved in football from grassroots to Premier League to speak up and contact the hotline to get the help and support they need.

Alan Shearer

NSPCC Ambassdor, Alan Shearer said:
"I've been shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the abuse that colleagues, and in some cases former team mates, suffered.

All clubs now have dedicated people tasked with keeping kids safe but there's always more to be done.

Every club – from the grassroots up – must continue to look at what they're doing to prevent abuse happening to any kids today and in the future.

So to anyone who's suffered in the past or is suffering now from abuse in football, please call the NSPCC's new football helpline."

Boys are less likely to speak up about sexual abuse

New figures show that boys are over 5 times less likely to contact Childline about sexual abuse than girls.

In 2015/16, where gender was known:

  • 16% of counselling sessions about sexual abuse were with boys
  • compared to 84% with girls4.

Football locker rooms and clubs are traditionally very masculine and male environments. This means it can be difficult for players to talk about issues such as sexuality or abuse. But it's crucial they speak out.

Along with the FA, we're urging players and others involved in football, from those just starting out to Premier League, to speak out using our helpline.

Staffed by independent, experienced NSPCC practitioners, the helpline offers support and guidance for those who've experienced childhood sexual abuse within the game.


Keeping your child safe in clubs, playing sport and at other activities

It's great if your child wants to get involved in clubs and sports. It can help them develop skills, make new friends and build self-confidence. But it's important to know that the people running the activity take your child's safety as seriously as you do.

So before your child starts joining in, here are some things to find out.

  • Is there a child protection policy?
  • Every organisation should know how children will be kept safe. If there isn't a written policy then you may want to think about whether you want your child to join.
  • Who do you speak to if you're worried about anything? 
  • It's important you know who to talk to if there's anything that's worrying you.
  • Is there a written code of conduct for coaches and volunteers?
  • You want to know that the people who will be in charge of your child have a set of rules and requirements they have to follow.
  • What happens when your child has to travel to "away" events?
  • Sometimes your child might have to go on trips with the club. They should have a policy that covers things like the recommended ratio of adults to children and how travel will be arranged between locations.
  • Are all staff trained, qualified and police checked to work with young people? 
  • The club should be able to confirm all the necessary checks have been completed.
  • How are health and safety issues handled
  • For example, is there always a trained first aider on hand and are all the fire exits marked and easy to open?
  • What's the policy if a child needs personal care?
  • If anyone from the club ever has to do anything that a parent would normally do, like taking a young child to the toilet, it's important that they have guidelines that have to be followed.

The great majority of clubs and activity centres will have all these safeguards in place. If you aren't sure they do, ask to see the policies for yourself. After all, nothing's more important than having the peace of mind that your child is in safe hands.


You can find more about how to best support your child and encourage their enjoyment of sport from our Child Protection in Sport Unit.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said:

Peter Wanless"It's clear that for far too long, hundreds of people who suffered abuse as youngsters in the game have not been able to speak up. But it's encouraging that so many are finally finding their voice in a climate today where they know they'll be listened to and supported.

"What's important now is that those victims get that much-needed support, and that perpetrators are identified and brought to justice by police. Anyone can contact our hotline in confidence and we will get them the help they need."


  1. 2As of 21/12/2016

  2. From 23 November to 13 December the NSPCC football helpline received 1,767 calls. Please note that the number of calls does not reflect the number of people, as multiple calls can come from one individual. Not all calls will result in referrals.

  3. From November 23rd to 29th the NSPCC football helpline received 860 calls. Please note that the number of calls doesn't reflect the number of people, as multiple calls can come from 1 individual. Not all calls will result in referrals.

  4. In 2015/16 there were 10,067 counselling sessions about sexual abuse - gender was recorded in 76% of these counselling sessions. Childline conducted 1,193 counselling sessions with boys about sexual abuse, compared with 6,486 girls.

  5. Over 60 referrals were made to over 100 different agencies across the UK in the first 3 days of the helpline launch (23rd – 25th November). This is more than 3 times the amount of referrals made on the Jimmy Savile helpline in the first 3 days of this helpline launch, where 17 referrals were made.

    Please note that 1 referral can lead to multiple agencies being contacted depending on the nature of the information, and what areas it relates to.