Crewe deny Barry Bennell cover-up but will not hold investigation

After former youth coach Barry Bennell was sentenced to 31 years for child sexual abuse crimes, Crewe Alexandra denied a cover-up.

Crewe Alexandra   -  Getty Images

Crewe Alexandra will not hold an internal investigation after reiterating no-one at the club was aware of former coach Barry Bennell's sexual abuse crimes against children.

Bennell was convicted of 43 offences against 11 boys aged eight to 15 between 1979 and 1990 by a jury at Liverpool Crown Court last month, with the 64-year-old described as "the devil incarnate" and "sheer evil" by judge Clement Goldstone.

But the League Two side say a police probe has cleared club officials of any cover-up.

A Crewe statement read: "In November 2016, the club stated that it would undertake an independent review into allegations involving Barry Bennell whilst he was employed by the club.

"This review was to investigate the allegations which had been made involving Mr Bennell, as well as what the club may have known about Mr Bennell's offending.

"However, following the club's announcement, Cheshire Police initiated its own extremely thorough investigation into the club. This included not only investigating the allegations involving Mr Bennell, but also to determine what knowledge Crewe Alexandra may have had of Mr Bennell's offending.

"The police's detailed investigations took place with the full support and cooperation of the club. This included the club assisting the police with identifying, locating and providing contact details for a significant number of individuals that the police wanted to interview, including former directors and employees of the club. 

"The club also provided the police with voluminous documentation, including full copies of board minutes retained by the club for the entire period that Mr Bennell was employed by the club.

"As the club has previously stated, this thorough investigation concluded that there was no evidence to corroborate that anyone at the club was aware of Mr Bennell's offending. 

"For the avoidance of doubt, this included both John Bowler and Dario Gradi as members of the club at the time.

"As a fully independent and comprehensive police investigation has now taken place, the club does not intend to commission a further independent investigation to duplicate the thorough enquiries that have already been undertaken."

Crewe added Bennell was sacked from the club in 1992 for football reasons, the coach and scout having fallen out with Gradi - then Crewe's manager - over his duties.

Gradi, who managed Crewe between 1983 and 2007, is currently suspended by the Football Association (FA) pending an investigation into a separate sexual assault case.

Crewe also responded to a claim made by former director Hamilton Smith, who told the media he reported a complaint over Bennell's behaviour to the club's board four years prior to his departure.

"Mr Smith was managing director of the club from May 1987 until February 1990," Crewe's statement continued. "Every available member of the board of directors of the club during the time that Mr Smith was managing director has been interviewed by the police. 

"Each and every individual, including the manager of the club at the time, Mr Gradi, has denied having any recollection of Mr Smith raising any allegations of abuse about Mr Bennell at any board meeting in 1988 or ever. 

"Further, there is no reference whatsoever of any allegations of abuse being raised by Mr Smith in the contemporaneous board minutes retained by the club. Despite Mr Smith's allegations that he raised his knowledge of Mr Bennell's offending to board members in 1988, including to Mr Bowler, the board minutes show that Mr Smith still proceeded to nominate Mr Bowler to be chairman of the club in both 1988 and 1989. 

"The club is also concerned to note that, despite Mr Smith apparently admitting to being aware of Mr Bennell's offending in 1988, Mr Smith does not appear to have reported his knowledge of Mr Bennell's offending to either the police until 2016 or the FA until 2001, by which time Mr Bennell had already been convicted of offences.

"Mr Smith was specifically interviewed by the police as part of their thorough investigation into the club. Despite Mr Smith's evidence, the police were still able to conclude that there was no evidence to corroborate that the club was aware of Mr Bennell's offending.

"Finally, and above all else, the club wishes to make it absolutely clear that it sincerely regrets the terrible crimes committed by Mr Bennell upon young footballers over a significant number of years. The club also wishes to reiterate its deepest sympathies to the victims and survivors of Barry Bennell."