THE official inquiry into the abuse of children in care should be extended to include football in light of growing evidence of attacks on young players, Kezia Dugdale said yesterday.

The Scottish Labour leader said that unless the remit of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry was widened, the majority of abuse survivors would be “denied justice”.

Education secretary John Swinney refused last month to widen the inquiry’s remit, keeping it focused on physical, sexual and emotional abuse in residential settings such as foster care, children’s homes, boarding schools and long-term hospital care.

The inquiry, chair by judge Lady Smith, might be lengthened by years if it was to include abuse in other settings, he said at the time.

However at First Minister’s Questions, Ms Dugdale asked Nicola Sturgeon to reconsider.

She told the FM: “Football has become enmeshed in society's shame, child sex abuse. Once again, trusted people who were expected to nurture and care for our children have been found to be abusing them.

"Former footballers have found the courage to come forward and disclose how they have suffered at the hands of paedophile coaches."

She said Labour backed a call by some abuse survivors' groups to extend the current in-care abuse inquiry to "all situations where a duty of care existed", such as sports clubs and youth clubs, and said the "growing tide of revelations from footballers adds to that demand".

She added: "This inquiry holds out the promise of justice, but in restricting just who and what will be investigated it will deny that justice.

"As it currently stands, the inquiry is excluding the vast majority of people who were abused. First Minister, how can that be right? Please, think again."

But Ms Sturgeon repeated Mr Swinney’s warning about the inquiry running out of control.

She said the allegations now surfacing about abuse in football were “extremely serious and they sicken all of us”, but were “first and foremost police inquiries”.

She said: "The inquiry, which is already the most wide-ranging public inquiry ever held in Scotland, deliberately focuses on in-care abuse - abuse that took place in institutions or other settings that had legal responsibility for the long-term care of children in place of their parents.

"To widen the remit of that inquiry would mean that it would take perhaps many, many years longer to conclude its investigations and would risk becoming completely unwieldy.

“We would be at risk, I think, of breaking our word to the survivors of in-care abuse.

“My view is that we should allow that inquiry to get on with its job and we should allow the police to get on with their job of investigating allegations of abuse in football.”

However she said that if “wider systemic issues” emerged, the government would “consider very seriously" how to respond.

Ms Dugdale’s call follows a series of recent revelations about paedophiles in sport prompted by former football players coming forward to reveal abuse by club staff.

Jim McCafferty, a 71-year-old former kit man at Celtic, Hibernian and Falkirk in the 1980s and 1990s, was charged by police in Northern Ireland on Wednesday over alleged abuse.

It also emerged Partick Thistle had sacked physiotherapist John Hart in 1992, three years before his death, over alleged abuse, but did not inform the police.

Former SFA chief executive Gordon Smith has now called an inquiry into historical sexual abuse in Scotland similar to the English FA’s own inquiry into the issue.

He told the BBC: “There should be an inquiry, an inquiry into anybody who knew anything about this sort of thing. If this was happening at a club, what action did they take?

"We're now finding out some of the cases down in England where the club tried to hush the situation, even paid a player money to not say anything about it.”

Scottish LibDem Tavish Scott said: “Gordon Smith is right. Any independent full inquiry must now happen and the Scottish Government must get this moving immediately.”

Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton added: “An investigation could go a long way in allowing the victims to receive the support they should have been given at the time of the abuse.”