Crewe Alexandra chairman John Bowler QUITS in wake of Sheldon Report into historical sex abuse in football… as he ends 34-year reign with apology to victims of ex-coach Barry Bennell but insists club had no knowledge of ‘heinous crimes’
- Clive Sheldon QC’s report into historical sex abuse in football came out last week
- Crewe chairman John Bowler has now quit the club and apologised to victims
- After 34 years at the helm, Bowler was last man standing from a dark era at club
- He says he is ‘satisfied’ the club had no knowledge of Bennell’s ‘heinous crimes’
The chairman of Crewe Alexandra has stood down following the publication of the explosive 700-page Sheldon report into historical sexual abuse in football.
John Bowler said in a statement he had always intended to stand down upon the publication of the report, which was critical of Crewe for not doing enough to protect boys from serial sex abuser Barry Bennell.
It finally came out last Wednesday, after being commissioned by the Football Association in December 2016, and found that the FA put children at risk by failing to ban two serial predatory paedophiles, of which Bennell was one.
Barry Bennell was sentenced to 31 years in prison for 50 counts of child sexual abuse in 2018
Crewe chairman John Bowler has now stepped down and apologised to the victims of Bennell
Bowler said: ‘As the only person left with an association to that era, I truly believe it was important for me to see it through to conclusion.
‘I am satisfied with the findings of the review that found that the club did not have any knowledge of Barry Bennell’s heinous crimes.’
Bowler, who became Crewe chairman in 1987 and joined the board in 1980, added: ‘I will always be deeply appalled and sorry that those young players and their families suffered at the hands of this evil predator.
‘I personally and sincerely apologise to them all for their suffering. Crewe Alexandra is a community-based club with good people.
Clive Sheldon QC’s huge report into historical sex abuse in football was released this month
Bowler says he is satisfied Crewe had no knowledge of the ‘heinous crimes’ Bennell committed
The front page of Clive Sheldon QC’s explosive 710-page report, released today
‘I apologise to all our supporters that the name of the club has been tarnished.
‘I have worked on the formation of a new board and know they will do all they can to move the club forward.’
‘Our academy remains one of the finest in the country and we have every confidence in our safeguarding policies and procedures,’ Bowler said.
‘There is always room for improvement and as a club will welcome the future recommendations of the Sheldon Review.’
Bennell was sentenced to 31 years in prison for 50 counts of child sexual abuse at Liverpool Crown Court in 2018, with the sentencing judge describing him as ‘the devil incarnate’.
He was sentenced to an additional four years in prison for further offences in 2020.
Bennell worked at Crewe in the 1980s and 1990s, and also had close associations with Manchester City prior to that.
After the report’s publication, The FA admitted it was a ‘dark day for the beautiful game’ as they were found to have failed to ban two serial paedophiles in the long-awaited, QC-led review which raises serious questions but does not accuse the FA of a cover-up.
Dario Gradi (left) was also manager at Crewe while Bennell (right) was at the club, and the FA confirmed that he is banned from youth football because he represents a potential risk to children for safeguarding reasons
In a shocking development the FA — which offered a ‘heartfelt apology’ — confirmed that ex-Crewe manager Dario Gradi, who brought paedophile Bennell to the club, remained banned from the game because he represents a potential risk to children.
A number of clubs came under fire across 700 pages of the independent probe into child sexual abuse in football between 1970 and 2005.
Following reports of abuse from those brave enough to come forward, responses were ‘rarely competent or appropriate’, Sheldon QC found.
The FA was ruled to have overseen an environment where ‘in general, child protection was not regarded as an urgent priority’, following the first convictions of offenders in 1995.
It is a finding that could open the door for compensation claims.
Sheldon, whose report took four years to produce, examined the cases of several paedophiles, including Bennell, who arrived at Crewe from Manchester City.