Some sexual predators still active in English football - lawyer

The lawyer who helped set up a new trust to raise money for footballers who were sexually abused as young players has said some individuals still active in football should be investigated.

Prosperity Law's Edward Smethurst also claimed gagging orders have been used by "a number" of clubs, after Chelsea on Saturday apologised to former player Gary Johnson for the abuse he suffered as a trainee in the 1970s.

Johnson waived the confidentiality clause in the £50,000 agreement they made with Johnson in 2015, which allowed the 57-year-old to tell the Daily Mirror last week that he was assaulted multiple times over a three-year period by the club's chief scout Eddie Heath, who is now dead.

But speaking at the launch of the Offside Trust in Manchester, Smethurst said fresh claims of historic sexual abuse have pointed toward the same names multiple times.

"There are specific allegations against specific individuals, many of whom have been rumoured to be involved for a long time -- some of whom still work in the senior echelons of football, and it's extremely worrying," Smethurst said.

"There are certain names who are coming in who do come up repeatedly."

Smethurst said "calls and emails are coming in all the time" from players claiming to have been forced to sign non-disclosure agreements with clubs in return for compensation.

"Certainly, the allegations have been made by victims that confidentiality clauses have been used in relation to other clubs but I'm not in a position to independently verify this," said Smethurst, an award-winning lawyer who also chairs the Madeleine McCann Fund.

"It's unfolding as we speak. It's a number. It's several [but] less than five."

In Chelsea's apology to Johnson, the club said they "no longer felt it appropriate to keep confidentiality in place." Smethurst, however, said his Manchester-based firm has never told a client to ask for confidentiality in a case that involves possible criminal activity.

"I can't speak to what Chelsea's legal advisers told them. I've got no knowledge of that," he said. "But from a campaigning perspective, we think that some things are so important -- the protection of children being one -- that clubs should not hush these things up and tie victims up in confidentiality.

"We think there's a wider perspective here and that's the protection of victims and preventing these things from reoccurring. It's often the case that when these things go public, other victims come forward."

Smethurst, a former director at Sale Sharks rugby union club, is advising the Offside Trust on a pro bono basis and the organisation is actually being run by former Crewe players Andy Woodward and Steve Walters and ex-Manchester City youth player Chris Unsworth.

Woodward, whose harrowing interview with The Guardian nearly three weeks ago started a wave of allegations that has now swept over the entire game, said he and his partners are "fighting for justice" and trying to support fellow victims.

The independent body is asking for donations from the Football Association, professional leagues, players' union and all commercial organisations that profit from the game, as well as any private individuals who want to back this cause.

To give a sense of how fast the scandal is growing now, the latest police information is that new lines of inquiry are being followed at 55 clubs up and down the country, with Monday seeing fresh allegations about clubs and an official in Scotland.

Last week, the FA asked Kate Gallafent QC to lead a review of its response to historic allegations of sexual abuse, while Crewe have launched an independent investigation into alleged wrongdoing in their youth set-up.