Southampton failed to protect boys in their care by not appearing on rumours regarding youngster abuser Bob Higgins, an independent review has concluded.
Higgins was sentenced to 24 years in jail in 2019 for sexually abusing schoolboy footballers between 1971 and 1996.
A review commissioned by Southampton and performed by kids’s charity Barnardo’s concluded that the membership’s board should have been conscious of rumours circulating about Higgins’ behaviour however failed to act on them.
“It is our view that, despite assertions to the contrary, the board and/or management must at some point have heard or been told about stories circulating about Higgins and if this was so, they failed to take any action to find out whether there could be any substance to the rumours,” the review said.
“By not doing so, either intentionally or by default, the club failed to put the safety and welfare of boys concerned first.”
The review mentioned there was no proof that the membership tried to discover the explanation why a proficient footballer, chosen by the Football Association to prepare at its nationwide coaching floor, didn’t need to return to Southampton regardless of solely signing a number of months earlier.
It additionally concluded it was “highly likely” the board would have been knowledgeable of a letter from the FA which urged questions had been being requested about Higgins.
The review concluded that the board “knew there were some issues which caused ‘disquiet’ but took no action, leaving boys vulnerable and Higgins free to continue abusing them”.
The review additionally criticised the membership over their failure to instantly report a 1989 allegation of abuse to the police.
Instead, the review discovered it took the board 4 months to determine that this motion must be taken.
The membership additionally didn’t inform any of the affected boys why Higgins was not at Southampton, which the review once more deemed to be a failure in the membership’s responsibility of care.
The review concluded it was “convenient” for the board to “minimise and disregard” vital considerations about Higgins.
“The club persistently failed in exercising a duty of care to boys and this left them and other boys vulnerable to ongoing abuse by Higgins which impacted upon their lives as children and the adults they became,” the review mentioned.
“The impact of and damage caused by Higgins’ abuse of children in his care during the time he was employed by Southampton Football Club is incalculable. The damage to their physical and mental health as they grew up, their relationships, their families and even their ability to confidently parent has been devastating.
“It is these people who, in our view have paid the value for what appears to be the inertia of board members who failed to make sure that younger boys, in contact with Higgins, had been as nicely protected as they need to have been.
“We do not believe there was any deliberation or malign intent by these individuals, it is our view they simply did not consider the well-being of boys as their responsibility and once Higgins had left their employ saw no reason to alert anyone about the allegations that had been made against him.”
Southampton mentioned in a press release that the present board totally accepted all of the findings of the review and issued an apology to the victims and survivors of the abuse.
“Bob Higgins held the dreams of so many young boys in his hands,” the membership assertion mentioned.
“He completely betrayed the trust of those boys and their families. We now know that Higgins had unfettered power at Southampton Football Club and that those in senior positions did nothing to make sure that there were suitable controls in place to prevent abuse from occurring.
“We doubt that anyone on the membership at the moment needed the abuse to happen. However, equally, nobody in a place of energy did something to correctly discover out what was occurring, to take motion to make it possible for the abuse was stopped and correctly reported as soon as it had been found or to provide assist those that had been focused by Higgins.
“Those holding power at the club should have known what was going on at a much earlier stage. We have seen evidence that even when senior figures did find out about the allegations of abuse at the time, they seemed to do nothing to act and still failed to properly report the abuse. These failings, shockingly, left Bob Higgins free to work in football until his arrest in 2016.
“Everyone working on the membership in the present day is actually and deeply sorry for the hurt and subsequent anguish that the victims and survivors of the abuse carried out by Bob Higgins have suffered over the course of so a few years.”
For additional details about youngster abuse, sexual abuse, or exploitation, for both you or somebody shut to you, please see the checklist of organisations listed in the kid abuse part on Sky’s Viewer Support web page.