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15 December 2016, 14:38
Police Scotland is investigating 109 reports of child sexual abuse in football, Chief Constable Phil Gormley has said.
The response is being co-ordinated at a UK level because many incidents involve more than one police force area, Mr Gormley told a Scottish Police Authority meeting.
He described the situation as "fast-moving and fluid which requires both sensitive policing and strong partnership work''.
Mr Gormley said: "At the point this information was pulled together for me this morning, we've received 109 referrals which relate to child sexual abuse within football.
"Specialist officers from the national child abuse investigation unit are assessing the information coming into us and determining the most appropriate response.''
He added: ``While capacity may be tested over the coming weeks and months, I'm genuinely confident that the strong partnerships built up over many years will ensure that we continue to provide a complete and holistic service that meets the needs of children and adults who have been abused during their childhood.''
Football has been rocked by claims from former players across the UK that they were abused by people in positions of authority.
A number of Scottish clubs have started internal investigations while the Scottish Football Association (SFA) announced earlier this week it is to establish an independent review into allegations of child sex abuse within the sport.
The SFA said it ''has taken initial steps'' towards establishing the scope of the review to see what lessons can be learnt but stressed that Police Scotland remains the main investigatory authority regarding reports of abuse in the sport.
The announcement of the review followed pressure from various quarters, including Deputy First Minister John Swinney and former justice minister Cathy Jamieson, for Scottish football chiefs to act.
Speaking at the Scottish Police Authority meeting in Tulliallan on Thursday, Mr Gormley said: "Police Scotland is also responding to this situation.
"We have begun a major investigation to ensure our response is as co-ordinated, professional and as victim-focused as possible.
"We will continue to work with partners, including the National Police Chief's Council through Operation Hydrant, the SFA and the NSPCC to ensure a co-ordinated policing response is in place.
"A notification process has been agreed with the NSPCC whereby all referrals relating to Scotland will be routed to a single point of co-ordination within the national child abuse investigation unit.
"In addition, other avenues are available for members of the public to make a report or provide information by attending at their local police station, or telephoning the Police Scotland contact number 101.''
He added: "The protection of children is a cornerstone of our service and should be a concern for all.
"This is a fast-moving and fluid situation which requires both sensitive policing and strong partnership working with advocacy services and other statutory agencies.
"We recognise that speaking out about any form of child abuse is incredibly difficult and disclosures are often made months or years afterwards.
"We appreciate that sometimes finding a safe place to first talk about the experience helps eventual disclosure and would encourage anybody who feels this would assist to contact a support organisation.
"Individuals who disclose will be heard, they can be confident of the response they will receive, we will take all necessary steps to ensure support is there and that those responsible for such crime will be the subject of rigorous investigation.''