The Football Association of Wales (FAW) is being urged to do more to support any potential Welsh victims of historic child sexual abuse.
Leading abuse claims lawyer Michael Imperato is calling on the FAW to make it easier for alleged victims to come forward and disclose any past abuse.
This comes after more than 350 people have now reported allegations of abuse by coaches at football clubs across the UK – including several high-profile ex-players.
Following the claims, the Football Association (FA) announced that it is conducting an internal review assisted by leading counsel Kate Gallafent QC, an expert in child protection.
Police forces across the country, including north Wales, are also investigating the allegations and a specialist hotline set up by the NSPCC has received hundreds of calls.
Mr Imperato said that safeguarding measures aimed at protecting young members of sporting organisations in Wales need to be reviewed to help prevent further abuses of power.
Mr Imperato, of south Wales law firm Watkins & Gunn Solicitors, said: “The FA has launched an internal review into these widespread historic child sexual allegations, which have attracted hundreds of claims over the past week.
“But what has the FAW done?
“Institutions, such as the Football Association, should take a positive stance, engaging with and supporting victims. It’s a concern that it is looking internally rather than reaching out to victims.
“In Wales it is an even greater concern as the FAW appears to have only endorsed the national help lines rather than taking direct action to support any potential victims.
“This is not enough. Sexual abuse in football did not halt, for example, at the Severn Bridge or Cheshire border.
“Any institution, which interacts with young people could be vulnerable to infiltration by those who may abuse their position of authority. Football is far from the first, and will not be the last.”
Explaining why he believes the abuse allegations have only recently come to light, the leading lawyer suggested that feelings of confusion and shame could play a role in preventing alleged victims coming forward.
He said: “Disclosing sexual abuse is extremely difficult for any victims. Many victims are terrified of having to relive the ordeal and fear not being believed as the abuser is an adult in a position of authority.
“Furthermore, for many victims, there is often a sense of shame and confusion borne out of a lack of understanding about what happened. It can also be extremely isolating for victims as they may feel that they were the only ones to have suffered abuse.
“Therefore the victim is unlikely to report the abuse at the time, and years may go by until they are mature or confident enough to understand what has happened. By then, it feels too late, so people tend to ignore and bury the abuse. It’s for this reason that the courts can allow those who have suffered abuse to issue court proceedings after the normal time limit of three years has passed.
“When abuse is exposed, more victims gain the courage to come forward, and the number of cases multiply. We have seen this well illustrated in the Jimmy Saville cases and now with football.
“Victims need support, organisations and individuals need to be held accountable and safeguarding procedures for young people must be reviewed.
“The media, courts and Government can all play a part in shining a light on the issue and saving victims from the trauma of reliving the terrible abuse.
“Football and other sports should now be seeking to root out any perpetrators of abuse no matter how historic, how remote, how difficult. If this does not happen the Government must step in. Victims deserve nothing less.”