POLICE have been given information about three paedophile rings in the wake of the historical child abuse scandal that has rocked Scottish football.

Scottish child abuse charity Open Secret met with police, having uncovered some 367 people who had suffered multiple abuse mainly in the Falkirk area.

The charity told officers about three paedophile rings operating in central Scotland in the 1970s. It is believed they are rings that have previously been flagged up to Police Scotland, but did not lead to an investigation.

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The football scandal emerged three weeks ago when the former Crewe Alexandra defender Andy Woodward waived his right to anonymity to reveal that he had been a victim of sexual abuse by coach Barry Bennell.

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Woodward’s account of the horrific abuse he suffered from the age of 11 by one of his coaches triggered an avalanche of allegations from other players.

Concerns have been linked to seven Scottish football clubs. Four of them, Celtic, Rangers, Motherwell and Partick Thistle are in the Scottish Premiership and three are in the Scottish Championship, Hibs, Falkirk and Dundee United.

Motherwell became the latest to launch a probe into alleged historic sexual abuse on Friday - this came after Partick Thistle confirmed former club physiotherapist John Hart was sacked about claims made about him which emerged in 1992. Hart, who is now dead, also worked for Motherwell. Last week former Celtic, Hibs and Falkirk kitman Jim McCafferty was charged with sexual activity with a child.

But child abuse campaigners are angry at what they see as a failure to launch any independent investigation into the concerns in Scotland.

Some have directed their ire at Scottish football's governing body, the SFA for a continuing failure to investigate. The SFA is due to meet with Police Scotland on Monday to discuss the growing crisis and representatives are to meet with one child abuse advocate group.

It has further emerged that the Scottish Youth Football Association has suspended a member of staff pending an investigation into the handling of a complaint from the family of an alleged victim of sexual abuse by a suspected paedophile who it is claimed was allowed to carry on working in football for several years before being reported to police and the SFA.

Youth coach and referee Hugh Stevenson, who is now dead, has been accused of a series of child sex offences and is said to have been investigated by Strathclyde Police in 1993 and 1996.

Some 83 potential suspects have been identified across the UK. The NPCC has said that 98 clubs had been named so far in its role coordinating historical sexual abuse claims.

Open Secret held a two-hour meeting with a police delegation led by Detective Chief Inspector Gary Boyd, the man at the helm of the Forth Valley Division’s Public Protection Unit dedicated to investigating sexual crimes. During the meeting details emerged of the three alleged paedophile rings in Scotland.

"I think it could help with the football inquiry," said Janine Rennie, chief executive of Open Secret, who fears the the scandal in football was caused by a resistance to reporting abuse, which meant abusers could move from club to club. "What is really important moving forward is to ensure they get justice. We are trying to get as much intelligence out there to make sure that there is information that the police can act on."

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She revealed that the number of calls about potential abuse to the charity has doubled from 50 to 100 a week since the scandal broke.

"I think we have a role to play to encourage survivors to come forward and make a report to the police. If they feel we can work constructively with the police then they are going to feel more confident to come forward.

"I am hoping it works out and the relationship proves positive going forward because that will be good for the survivors.  

"If perpetrators are not brought to justice, as we have seen in the football situation, then they have the potential to abuse someone else, and that is a significant child protection issue. I am not comfortable with child protection issues that are uninvestigated.

"Football has raised awareness of a significant issue.  If that has been prevalent within a football environment, look at how much wider the level of abuse actually is going to be."

"There is something serously going wrong within society and one of the major issues that has come out of the football scandal is that the football clubs in a lot of cases were aware that people had abused children or that complaints were made but they were just moved and were able to abuse in another club. 

"Historically, I think people were afraid to look into it. They didn't know how to deal with it.

"Abuse comes with a lot of fear and basically people have been told as children you will be harmed by your perpetrator if you tell anyone. And there's the fear of not being believed, which is huge." 

Andi Lavery of White Flowers Alba, the child abuse advocates group, who says he himself suffered abuse, including within schools football, called for an inquiry by the SFA after what he describes as a systematic cover-up of child abuse in Scottish football.

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A delegation from the SFA, including Donna Martin, their child well-being and protection manager, is to meet with the group after they raised their concerns with chief executive Stewart Regan.

But Lavery claims the SFA approach has been "derisory". He says he has allegations relating to three Scottish teams and says he believes some victims will never see justice, as they have committed suicide.

"Victims want accountability. We need an abuse inquiry. We need an independent inquiry. Not an Elastoplast. 

"I know people won't testify, or talk to police.  They just say why do I need this in my life.

"They say you can be listened to but they have been telling this story for 30 or 40 years.

"People talk about a system of vetting, but it only counts if they have been caught.

"There's a code of silence in the west of Scotland. If you say anything you get attacked. You're a traitor.  

"Kidding on it's just a couple of bad eggs is not going to make this go away," he said.

"This is why people are not going to the police."

The SFA said it would hold a meeting with White Flowers Alba.

All Scottish football clubs linked in the scandal, were approached by the Sunday Herald about how it is tackling the issues raised.

Sources at Falkirk and Partick Thistle said they believed directives on child welfare and protection and improved background checks will help to keep children safe.

A Falkirk spokesman said: “Falkirk is shocked and saddened by the wave of recent reports sweeping football. We take the safety and well-being of all associated with our club very seriously.

“We and the Forth Valley Football Academy have appropriate employment processes in place for all those working with young people, including disclosure checks.

“We will of course monitor events elsewhere and where lessons can be learned to further enhance what is already in place, will look to do so."

Celtic said the protection of children is an issue it treats with "the utmost seriousness".

A spokesman said the club "acknowledges its responsibility to safeguard the welfare of those who engage with the club, especially children and vulnerable adults".

He added: "We are committed to protecting children and vulnerable adults from harm and to promoting their wellbeing."

He said their safeguarding manager is a dedicated point of liaison on all such matters.  

Hibs has said it will assist the pollice with their inquiries "in every way that we can".

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has so far distanced herself from an wider remit for the in-care abuse inquiry.

She said: "We owe it to survivors of in-care abuse to have an inquiry that can reasonably quickly give them the answers that they want, to ensure that we learn the lessons that they want to be learned and so that we can say that such in-care abuse will never be allowed to happen again in Scotland.

"There is a distinction that concerns in-care abuse, in which the institution where the abuse happened was in the place of the child’s parent and had legal responsibility for the child’s long-term care.

"We will continue to take all [the] issues very seriously and through all our actions — whether that is through the public inquiry or the action that we fully support by the SFA and by the police — we will continue to make sure that anybody who is the victim of abuse, no matter where it happens, gets access to justice, because they deserve that justice."