A former Fulham youth player who alleges he was abused and threatened during his time at the club says 150 people have contacted him to report similar treatment in different academies.
The west London club are investigating the claims made by Max Noble in an interview with the i newspaper.
Noble says he was told he would be dropped if he did not sign with an agent the club had recommended to him and was administered painkillers in order to train and play.
He also alleges the club refused to pay for a knee operation just before his scholarship deal came to an end, and is calling for clubs and the football authorities to ensure aftercare for academy players who are released.
He also claims there were occasions when white players were afforded preferential treatment at training and black players were told to eat their lunch in a dirty dressing room rather than the canteen.
Noble says he suffered severe anxiety and depression after leaving Fulham, and after producing a video called ‘Chasing Shadows’ about his experiences says he received messages from 150 former academy players who had gone through the same thing.
Noble told the i: “The only thing I want to change is if you take a boy out of school you owe him aftercare. That’s it. You can’t promise them the world, then ignore them when they’re depressed, or they’re going through what I had to go through. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
“The academy system is failing, you can see just by the numbers, it’s completely failing.”
Noble likens the process to grooming.
“People don’t like that word because it sounds sexual,” he added.
“But for an adult to lie to children, to groom them into something and then all of a sudden sweep the rug from under their feet and then say: ‘It’s your fault you didn’t make it, you didn’t work hard enough, you didn’t listen, you didn’t stay out on the training ground long enough, or get in early enough’…
“It’s always an excuse that is used by the abuser: blame the victim. It’s an abuse scandal.”
Fulham said in response to Noble’s allegations: “We condemn bullying, racism and discrimination in any form and work hard to ensure that they have no place here. The club will investigate the historic claims and liaise with all relevant parties.”
Cottagers boss Scott Parker added: “I don’t know the ins and outs exactly of the investigation. What I do know is that measures are in place now in terms of protection. Protocols in place for young players are there in abundance.
“I can only talk about now. At the same time it goes without saying that if they are historic claims they are claims that we will as a football club investigate.”