Ex-Southampton coach accused by six former players as football sex abuse scandal widens

Bob Higgins, 63, is still working as a coach with Fleet Town FC

Alexandra Sims
Sunday 04 December 2016 21:53
Southampton’s former youth development officer Bob Higgins has been identified to police by a number of former youth players who claim to have been sexually abused by him
Southampton’s former youth development officer Bob Higgins has been identified to police by a number of former youth players who claim to have been sexually abused by him

A former coach at Southampton FC has been named in connection with allegations of historic sexual abuse - as the number of claims of abuse across the game continues to grow.

Southampton’s former youth development officer Bob Higgins has been identified to police by a number of former youth players who claim to have been sexually abused by him.

The 63-year-old is still working in football as a coach with Fleet Town FC in Hampshire.

In recent weeks, at least six former youth players have come forward alleging Higgins sexually abused them over a number of years.

Former Southampton player Dean Radford waivered his right to anonymity to tell the BBC he had experienced abuse by Higgins, saying: “There was the going in the bedroom at night, there was the love songs, there was the touching.”

Jamie Webb, who joined the club when he was 13, told the broadcaster that Higgins had “tried to move down and put his hand in between my shorts and my tracksuit that I was wearing.”

Higgins faced six sexual abuse charges in 1992 but was cleared by a judge of assaulting young boys.

In 1997, a joint letter was sent out by Hampshire Police and social services declaring that Higgins was “considered a risk to children”, the Sun on Sunday reports.

Hampshire Police has confirmed it is investigating the incident.

The Chairman of Fleet Town FC told the BBC the club had not received any notifications about the allegations, but that it would cooperate fully with any enquiries.

Southampton had previously said it would work with Hampshire police as part of a large scale probe into youth football across the country.

It comes after former Leeds footballer Jamie Forrester claimed a football paedophile ring did exist amid the widening sex abuse scandal in the game.

Mr Forrester, who joined Leeds United in 1992, alleged he was groped by former scout Frank Roper.

“What Frank Roper did was unforgivable," the 42-year-old told The Sunday People. “He was a very scary and very intimidating man and he always ­targeted the weaker, more vulnerable boys.

“Roper never touched my private parts or tried to rape me. But he regularly groped me and ­others. And there was constant mental abuse.”

Mr Forrester, who has informed the Professional Footballers’ Association and children’s charity the NSPCC about Roper, also claimed to have seen the scout raping an 11-year-old Thai boy during a football tour to the country.

He also claimed than “an organised ­network [of abuse] was in place”.

Roper, who died 11 years ago in Stockport, Cheshire, scouted predominantly during the 1970s and 80s in the North West of England and has close links to Blackpool FC, The Sunday People reports.

A Blackpool FC Spokesman said: “The club is yet to receive any information from the PFA or relevant authorities in relation to the ongoing investigations of historical abuse,” adding it would assist in any inquiries.

It follows an apology from Chelsea FC to former youth player Gary Johnson who was sexually abused by scout Eddie Heath at the London club in the 1970s.

Some 18 police forces are involved in the investigation, as a storm of as many as 350 allegations made across the sport.

So far 10 suspects have been identified and Greater Manchester Police said it was investigating reports from 35 people, with its inquiry growing on a “daily basis”.

As the scandal continues to unfold, former Southampton player and England captain Alan Shearer, 46, urged footballers to come forward with allegations of sexual abuse and said he was "shocked and deeply saddened" by recent revelations.

He appealed for victims to contact the NSPCC's football helpline, which has received 860 calls in a week.

Current captain Wayne Rooney, 31, also joined with figures, including women's captain Steph Houghton, in a video on "safeguarding" published for the FA and NSPCC.

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