Crewe chairman has resigned following the release of the Sheldon report on football sexual abuse. John Bowler said in a statement that he had always intended to step down once the report was released.
The report was released on Wednesday last week, after being commissioned by the Football Association in December 2016, and criticized Crewe for not doing enough to protect the boys from serial assailant Barry Bennell.
Bowler said: “As the only person left with an association at this time, I really believe it was important for me to get it through. I am pleased with the findings of the review which found that the club had no knowledge of Barry Bennell’s heinous crimes.
Clive Sheldon concluded in his report that it was likely that three Crewe directors discussed Bennell over concerns that suggested his sexual interest in children. He also found that there was no evidence that the advice of a senior police officer to keep a “watch bulletin” on Bennell was heeded.
The club has also been criticized for not checking in with boys who spend the night at Bennell’s. “If such steps had been taken, it could have caused boys to leak information to the club,” Sheldon wrote in his report.
Bowler, who became Chairman of Crewe in 1987 and joined the board in 1980, said: “I will always be deeply dismayed and sorry that these young players and their families have suffered at the hands of this bad predator. I sincerely and personally apologize to them for their suffering. Crewe Alexandra is a community club with great people.
“I apologize to all our supporters that the club’s name has been tarnished. I have been working on forming a new board of directors and I know they will do whatever they can to move the club forward.
“Our academy remains one of the best in the country and we have every confidence in our backup policies and procedures. There is always room for improvement and as a club will welcome future recommendations from Sheldon Review. “
Bennell was sentenced to 31 years in prison on 50 counts of child sexual abuse in Liverpool Crown Court in 2018, with the sentencing judge describing him as ‘the devil incarnate’.
He was sentenced to an additional four years in prison for other offenses in 2020. Bennell worked at Crewe in the 1980s and 1990s, and had close ties to Manchester City before that.