Sex abuse in sport inquiry extends to Sunderland's Foundation of Light

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Sunderland AFC's Foundation of Light has been the subject of a complaint about historic sexual abuse.

Northumbria Police today released up to date figures regarding allegations of non-recent sexual abuse in the sporting community.

It set up Operation Tide in December to support and investigate increased reporting of abuse following reports across the country and in the media.

Twenty-five victims have come forward in relation to eight suspects across nine different sporting clubs, including Newcastle United and Sunderland's Foundation of Light.

Allegations have also been made about some smaller local sporting clubs.

The Foundation of Light is the registered charity of Sunderland AFC, and the complaint is said to involve a former member of staff.

A spokesman for the Foundation said: "We are currently helping Northumbria Police with their inquiries about a case of non-recent sexual abuse relating to a former employee.

"Foundation of Light is an organisation that is dedicated to improving people's lives, and over the years we have supported many who have suffered abuse, as well as forging positive working relationships with Northumbria Police.

"We are extremely saddened to hear of the allegation,s and will do everything in our power to support this investigation.

"Our concern is primarily with those who have suffered abuse, and we would encourage any others who have suffered abuse in the past to contact the NSPCC on 0800 023 2642.

"To prevent abuse, all Foundation of Light staff undergo rigorous safeguarding training.

"Foundation of Light employs a safeguarding officer, as is suitable for an organisation of its size and type and DBS checks are undertaken on all appropriate staff.

"We also adhere to strict safeguarding procedures to protect the thousands we work with every day, and take allegations of abuse very seriously.

"As this is an ongoing police investigation it would not be appropriate for us to comment in more detail at this stage."

Sunderland AFC’s head of safety Paul Weir added: "We have been made aware of an investigation, which relates to a former employee of the Foundation of Light.

"First and foremost our thoughts are with anyone affected by this and other such cases.

"We are giving our full support to the Foundation of Light and Northumbria Police to ensure that they receive every assistance in their investigations."

Revealing the latest figures, Northumbria Police's Assistant Chief Constable Darren Best said: "When we initially launched the investigation it was focused on allegations made in connection with Newcastle United Football Club.

"But with more victims now bravely coming forward, we have broadened the investigation.

"Our specially-trained officers have been in contact with a number of people who have taken the hugely brave step of speaking to us.

"My plea to those affected is please don't suffer in silence, we would like you to come forward.

"Our officers are trained and able to investigate, and we work closely with other support organisations to ensure we provide the best possible service to you.

"We also urge anyone who may have any information regarding child sexual abuse to come forward."

Anyone who has suffered abuse is asked to contact the Operation Tide team on 101, or seek advice from the dedicated NSPCC helpline on 0800 023 2642.