Three ex-footballers have today announced that they are forming the ‘Offside Trust’ as an independent body to support players and their families who have suffered from abuse.
Andy Woodward, Steve Walters and Chris Unsworth aim for the trust to to represent players in a completely independent manner.
At its launch on Monday, Woodward, who was the first to come forward to speak about abuse by a former coach, told a news conference: “We do want justice because we all suffered a terrible ordeal.
“We want to move forward so we can protect the children suffering right now… we just want to help people. That’s it…the bravado of football has to stop.”
According to the trust, over 860 players have come forward in the last few days with allegations that go back several decades.
Woodward also talked about the personal ordeal he faced, and the process of coming out with the story: “For many years i’ve suffered with anxiety, panic, and all sorts of mental health issues…I got to a point where I spoke to people who said ‘you need to do this (go public)’ because you’re not the only one that’s suffering, so I just felt i’m halfway through my life, and I just wanted to be free again.”
Zelda Worthington also disclosed sympathy for the former footballer, and long time friend: “it’s hindered his relationships with his children, and I’ve had to have difficult conversations with my children and family members where you sit down with them and talk about sexual abuse. It’s not easy but it’s important.”
Former footballer Mark Williams was also at the press conference, and talked about his experience coming forward: “I haven’t said anything for thirty odd years. When I saw Andy come out with the story, they’re two boys I played with around Crewe. I saw the pain on their faces, I watched it all week and Paul Stewart came out; it started to give me courage.
“What had happened to me was not as serious as them but I still wanted to come forward to support them and for me as well.”
Williams also stated that it was hearing his former manager Tony Pulis (now at West Bromwich Albion) come out in support of whistle-blowers that made the former Stoke defender wish to speak about the incident.
The Trust will be set up and administered by Manchester Law Firm, Prosperity Law LLP, to ensure good governance and complete independence.
For more information on ‘Offside Trust’, visit http://www.theoffsidetrust.com/