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'Go-to' experts in football's snowballing sex abuse scandal

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Global media are turning to two Brunel psychologists as the world struggles to make sense of spreading allegations of historical child sex abuse in UK football.

More than 20 ex-footballers voiced allegations of abuse after ex Crewe Alexandra defender Andy Woodward broke his silence about his experiences as a young player.

Ten police forces are investigating similar claims and the Football Association announced an internal review amid claims it pulled child protection funding and paid people to keep quiet. The attacks date back to the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

Throughout the unfolding crisis, social psychologist Dr Daniel Rhind, an expert on safeguarding in sport, has appeared across national TV, radio and online news.

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Dr Rhind spoke on BBC Radio 5 Live Sport on Thursday after an emotional former Tottenham and England player Paul Stewart likened the scale of abuse with the Saville scandal. The senior lecturer, whose research under-pins International Safeguards for Children in Sport, talked about grooming and the vulnerability of younger players.

Later, on TV’s BBC News 24, Dr Rhind said safeguarding in sport is now stronger after criminal record checks came in, in 2002. “Before that, there was little in place to prevent paedophiles entering football.” 

Praising the players’ courage to speak out, he said: “What Andy Woodward has done has had a bigger impact on football than anything done on pitch this season. He should be player of the year. He called for everyone in sport to recognise safeguarding as everybody’s issue.”

Dr Rhind is soon to appear on China Central TV, the nation’s main state broadcaster and featured in Saturday’s Daily Mail, the Sunday Express and on Istanbul-based English news channel, TRT. On Friday, Brunel sports psychologist Dr Misia Gervis told Sky News presenters how hard it is for people to come forward with abuse allegations.

Dr Rhind, who with Dr Gervis has a study out in January about abuse in sport, has made several more TV appearances since including the BBC's flagship political programme, Newsnight.

Find out about psychology at Brunel here.