Football clubs risk experiencing a "Pandora's box" of sexual assault claims if the case involving former England captain Mick Mills goes ahead, a court has heard.

Mills, 64, who captained England at the 1982 World Cup, is accused of "turning a blind eye" to initiation ceremonies which amounted to sexual assault while he was manager of Stoke City.

A former youth player at Stoke, George Blackstock, has launched a civil case against the club based on claims that a ritual known as "the Glove" that he went through at the club left him with post-traumatic stress.

Blackstock alleged that former Stoke goalkeeper Peter Fox subjected him to the punishment, also known as "the Finger". It involved anal penetration with a goalkeeping glove covered in deep-heat cream.

The former apprentice, who was 16 at the time of the alleged incident, also claimed that players once pinned him down and put a red-hot teapot on his bare backside as punishment for not making their tea hot enough.

He is now suing Stoke and Fox, who made 477 appearances for the club in 15 years, for damages. Both Fox and Mills deny the allegations.

Lawyers said that if Blackstock wins compensation more claims will be brought against clubs across the UK alleging similar rituals.

Nicholas Fewtrell, representing Stoke, told the hearing at Preston Crown Court: "If one is taking the lid off Pandora's box, it is not likely to be an isolated event.

"This practice of punishments, pranks and initiations will have been common at clubs in all sports.

"We know that there are other potential claims in the wings and that other witnesses are set to jump on the bandwagon."

Mills, who was awarded an MBE after appearing 43 times for England, was identified in proceedings as knowing about what was said to have happened at the club but took no action.

Second apprentice

"The manager knew what was going on and the development officer knew, and they turned a blind eye," said Blackstock.

A second apprentice, Ian Gibbons, also claimed that he "received the glove" about a month after Blackstock.

In a statement read in court, he said: "I remember George had brought tea for some of the players and some complained it was not warm enough.

"The players held him down and the hot teapot was placed on his backside. Peter Fox went over to George and inserted his glove into his backside. I remember George being hysterical and crying. It was awful to witness."

Fox, 56, denies the allegations and describes the claim as a "devastating shock".

He said: "It is an allegation without any substance whatsoever, made at least 25 years after the alleged events are supposed to have taken place."

Blackstock said he never spoke out about the alleged assaults at the time for fear it would have affected his chance of getting a professional contract at the club.

The hearing is to determine if the case can go ahead due to the historic nature of the allegations. A decison is expected in the new year.