Ian shares the story of how he was controlled and abused by his football coach and what he did to find help.

Ian Ackley


Head of the Survivor Support Advocate (SSA) service at the Professional Footballers' Association

I walked away from football, the game I loved, mid-contract in 1986 due to my ongoing trauma from the sexual abuse I suffered by my football coach, Barry Bennell.


“I was born in the Peak District in September 1968. Football was my passion and my life as a young boy and I was lucky enough to have played for Sheffield Wednesday, Wed, Manchester City, and Manchester United, going through the ranks before signing for Rochdale FC in 1985.

However, I walked away from the game I loved mid-contract in 1986 due to the ongoing trauma I suffered due to the sexual abuse I suffered by my football coach, Barry Bennell. The abuse lasted for three and a half years before stopping abruptly, but the psychological scars and effects it had on me are, at times, still prevalent today. 


Ian Ackley with Barry Bennell far left: Photo Daily Mirror

I first came forward in 1994 and publicly disclosed my abuse in 1997. However, the world wasn’t ready to accept the potential scale of what I knew to be true and it took until 2016 until it was recognised as such.

 When I initially came forwards I was left in what I can only describe as a ‘God-sized hole’ with nowhere to turn. It was criminal justice in a way I didn’t even realise at the time, and I felt isolated and unbelieved. I had lots of suicidal thoughts. This caused me significant harm as I turned to recreational drugs and alcohol for a time and my behaviour became extremely self-destructive. I believe It was only through the support of my partner and the birth of my first child that I survived…

Ian Ackley (left) and Gary Pleece of 1in6uk

I skip forward to today where I have created and run a survivor support and advocacy service based out of the Professional Footballers’ Association welfare department where I now get the opportunity to support others coming forward to disclose and navigate the often complex and unknown landscape they face at this most difficult time of their lives.

 Since 2016, I have reached out and accepted support and counseling and I believe that it has turned my life around in a way that I didn’t believe I would ever have been able to do. Without accepting and embracing therapy, the idea of looking after my mental well-being would have never materialised.

If I was to give one piece of advice to others that have yet to disclose having unwanted sexual experiences, it would be – to reach out, and seek help as being alone is no place to be and no one deserves to feel alone. Because you are not alone, you just might not realise it yet…”

Watch the video of Ian discussing safeguarding in sport in conversation with 1in6.uk’s, Gary Pleece, its relevance to all organisations and how we all have a role to play to ensure children are kept safe.