Crewe launch independent review into club's handling of child abuse allegations

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Crewe have announced they will conduct an independent review into the way they dealt with historical child abuse allegations.

The League Two club released a statement on Saturday evening explaining they will appoint an external legal counsel to carry out an investigation.

Former Crewe director Hamilton Smith, who was on the board from 1986 to early 1990, had earlier claimed the club held board-level talks about an allegation of sexual abuse made against ex-junior coach Barry Bennell in the late 1980s, but kept him on.

Crewe's statement read: "Crewe Alexandra Football Club can today announce that it is to launch an independent review of the way the club dealt with historical child abuse allegations.

Alexandra Stadium home of Crewe Alexandra.
Alexandra Stadium. home of Crewe Alexandra (Martin Rickett/PA)

"The club is determined that a thorough investigation takes place at the earliest opportunity and believes an independent review, to be conducted via the appointment of external legal counsel, is the correct way forward in the circumstances."

The statement was issued after Smith's claim that he had convened a meeting at the home of former chairman Norman Rowlinson once he was confronted with an allegation that Bennell had abused a junior footballer.

Smith claims Rowlinson wanted to get Bennell out of the club before an agreement was reached that Bennell should stay in his post but not be left alone with boys and that boys should not be allowed to go on overnight stays at Bennell's house.

It is alleged by Smith that Dario Gradi, who was then the club's manager and is now director of football, attended a follow-up meeting held in Gradi's office.

football coach Barry Bennell
Convicted child abuser Barry Bennell, a former Crewe Alexandra coach (PA)

Bennell worked with Crewe, Manchester City, Stoke and several junior clubs in the north-west prior to his conviction for raping a British boy at a football camp in Florida in 1994.

After the conviction in the US, Bennell was found guilty at Chester Crown Court in 1998 of 23 offences against six boys, aged from nine to 15, and was sentenced to nine years in jail.

The court heard that one of the assaults took place in Gradi's house, though the court was also told there was no suggestion Gradi knew anything about it.

Bennell was given a further sentence in 2015 when he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing another boy at a camp in Macclesfield in 1980.