Southampton FC’s historic sexual assault failures revealed in debit report | Southampton

A series of missed opportunities allowed pedophile Bob Higgins to sexually abuse dozens of soccer players while he was a coach at Southampton, a damning report from Barnardo’s Children’s Charity.

Higgins, Considered a “God Like” Star Maker By youngsters dreaming of a career in football, they managed to work “seemingly undiscovered” at Southampton from the mid-1970s until the late 1980s and went on to work elsewhere in the sport until 2016.

The report concluded: “It is an inescapable fact that adults at Southampton Football Club during the time Higgins worked or on their behalf did not consider the well-being and welfare of the boys participating in the club as their primary consideration.

“The impact and harm caused by Higgins abusing the children in his care during his time at Southampton Football Club is incalculable. The damage to their physical and mental health as they grow, their relationships, their families and even their ability to trust parents has been devastating.

“It is these individuals, in our view, who have paid the price for what appears to be the inactivity of board members who have failed to ensure the protection of the young boys, who are in contact with Higgins, as they should have been.

“We do not believe that there was any malicious deliberation or intent on the part of these individuals, it is our view that they simply did not take the welfare of the boys as their responsibility, and once Higgins quit his job he saw no reason to alert anyone about the allegations against him.”

It was Higgins Imprisoned in 2019 for 24 years for sexually abusing 24 boys during the 25-year period of 1971, but the report said more than 100 individuals came forward to testify to the abuse of Higgins.

The report’s authors spoke to 26 men who had been abused or knew Higgins. They talked about his grip on them. Someone said, “He was like the character of the Lord, untouchable.” “The boys were vying for his attention.” “Bob Higgins was like a god sitting on a throne surrounded by boys,” said a second. Another said, “He can ruin our careers with a flick of the fingers, and we’d do anything in that lifetime.”

timetable

The main convictions for sexual assault in English and Welsh football

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1960, 1961, 1965 and 1984 Frank Roper was convicted of sexual abuse of young boys.

1995 Florida’s Barry Bennell was convicted of four counts of indecent assault on a 13-year-old man in 1994.

1998 Bennell was convicted of 23 counts of sexual abuse of young boys between 1978 and 1992.

2002 George Ormond was convicted of sexual offenses against five boys.

2007 Ted Langford was convicted of four counts of sexually assaulting young boys between 1976 and 1990.

2015 Bennell was convicted of four counts of sexually assaulting young boys in 1980.

2018 Bennell was convicted of 50 counts of sexual abuse of young boys between 1979 and 1991.

2018 Langford was convicted of 35 counts of sexual assault of young boys from 1973 to 1998.

2018 Michael Coleman was convicted of three accounts of sexual abuse of boys in the early 1980s.

2018 Anthony Pickering was convicted of sexual crimes against young footballers in the 1970s and 1980s.

2019 Bob Higgins was convicted of 49 counts of sexual abuse of young children between 1980 and 1989.

201 Dylan Lamb, a soccer coach, was convicted for 30 years of sexual crimes against young boys.

2020 Bennell was convicted of nine counts of sexually assaulting two boys between 1979 and 1988.

2021 Stephen Walker, a soccer coach, has been convicted of multiple counts of sexual assault over four decades.

There have been other successful cases in Scotland and Wales, where men in football have been accused and convicted of sexual crimes against children.

Chronology from Barnardo’s Independent Review of Higgins’ sexual assault at Southampton

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They told how I promised them gifts and pledges. “He promised me that he would be my dad’s personality. He used to give me gifts and attention,” one of them explained. “I loved him. I wanted his approval. I wrote letters. Another testified.

The men described how Higgins might at first be hesitant in his movements to see how the boys would respond: “accidental” touching, sexual banter, commenting on their bodies and genitals. One of them said, “He was patting you and saying well done, but he was touching my testicles.” Another added, “He was clicking on you on the bum. It felt like it wasn’t right. He’ll make you do stretches and he’s going to touch you. None of the boys will talk about it.”

Higgins also “rehabilitated” the parents, encouraging them to attend training sessions where public massages with soap and water were given, which the report said was “essentially a technique he used to allow him to abuse the boys.”

Previous players gave a glimpse of the torment they have experienced since then. One said he had switched to alcohol, another had PTSD and depression. A third person recounted a recurring nightmare: “Someone hangs me on the bed and … I can’t escape.”

The report said it found no evidence that Higgins was part of a pedophile gang, but highlighted that he knew coaches such as Serial abusive Barry Bennell and Kate Carson, the former coach of Peterborough, Norwich City and Cambridge United, who was in January 2019 Died in a car accident On the day his trial for the sexual assault of 11 boys is due to begin. “From our point of view, it is very likely that these individuals have some awareness of each other’s tendencies,” the report said.

Bob Higgins during his time at Southampton
Bob Higgins during his time at Southampton. Photo: Universal News and Sport (Europe)

The report said Higgins began working at Southampton in 1975 – at which time concerns were raised about him. He resigned in 1979 after a complaint but became a full-time youth development officer with the club in 1980. Throughout the 1980s there were rumors about him and he was nicknamed “Doody Bob”, the report says. In 1989, a staff member overheard the boys on a minibus making allegations about Higgins’ sexual behavior.

This was raised with the board. The report says it is “particularly significant” that the council took four months before suggesting that it should be reported to the police – and then failed to verify that any report had actually been made. “This failure to report or act has been a major disappointment to the boys who have been entrusted with Higgins’ care,” the report said.

The report said that like many other football clubs, Southampton in the 1970s and 1980s was run by a council of local businessmen, lawyers, sponsors and landlords. None of them are still on the board.

Higgins left Southampton in 1989. Police spoke to a number of boys who told them they had been sexually assaulted by Higgins.

Higgins was first brought to trial in early 1990 to face charges of indecent assault on six boys but was acquitted by order of the presiding judge in January 1992. Five of the boys who reported their abuse to the police were not required to give evidence at trial. The report said Higgins was left at large to continue his mistreatment.

Former Southampton Stadium
The former Southampton stadium, The Dell, where the club played during Higgins’ tenure as an employee. Photography: Mike, Hewitt/All Sport

The report also highlighted how the boys often stayed with Higgins and his wife Shirley in their home in Southampton, where many were abused. She said, “There was no administrative oversight to ensure that the accommodation provided to the boys who needed overnight accommodation was adequate. The board members neglected not to address the issue of the boys’ accommodation arrangements when they were away from home.”

Southampton have issued a deep apology. In a statement, the club said: “Bob Higgins has held the dreams of so many young boys in his hands. He has completely betrayed the trust of these boys and their families. We now know that Higgins had unrestricted power at Southampton Football Club and that those in senior positions had done nothing to make sure There are adequate controls in place to prevent abuse.

“No one in a position of authority has done anything to properly find out what was going on, to take action to ensure that abuse was stopped and properly reported once it was discovered or to provide support to those Higgins targeted.

“Those in power at the club should have known what was happening at an early stage. We saw evidence that even when the high-profile discovered allegations of abuse at the time, they seemed to have done nothing to act and failed to properly report abuse. These failures Shockingly, I left Bob Higgins free to work in football until his arrest in 2016.

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The club continued: “It is very clear that the club has completely failed to protect so many young people from suffering abuse over a long period of time. It is clear that many people involved in senior positions at the club have had to do a lot to support the abused children. And to prevent Higgins from continuing to abuse, whether at Southampton or elsewhere. Simply put, there were too many missed opportunities to end the outrageous and horrific abuses that were carried out.”

The club said others were to blame, too. “A whole series of people in clubs, the Football Association, the English Football League and the police had the opportunity to properly investigate or report the rumored behavior of Higgins. Instead, they chose not to act and not believe those who spoke which meant Higgins did not finally face justice until 2019 “.

Hampshire Police defended its conduct, noting that Higgins was indicted in the 1990s, and said that the allegation of historical abuses made to it in 2013 had been thoroughly investigated, but on the basis of all the evidence available at the time, it was not possible to charge No charges to Higgins. Brought”.

The FA said Clive Sheldon QC will review the report to decide whether an addition is needed His report for the year 2018 in sexual assault in football. The EFL has been contacted for comment.

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