A former youth football coach Bob Higgins who held “supreme power” over the futures of budding players has been found guilty of sexually touching and groping 24 victims between 1971 and 1996, most of which were trainees at Southampton FC and Peterborough United.
During his time as a coach, Bob Higgins worked with young footballers who would go onto become national heroes and household names but others were not so fortunate. Haunted by their ordeals they gave up football entirely. Many felt unable to say anything to anybody for up to 30 years.
A jury at Bournemouth Crown Court heard that his status as a “God-like” figure enabled his decades-long campaign of abuse and found him guilty of 45 counts of indecent assault. Victims said they were abused during post-exercise soapy massages, in Higgins’ car while he played love songs on the stereo and at his home where he cuddled with boys on his sofa.
Adam Feest QC said Higgins had shown a “systematic and all-pervasive pattern of grooming behaviour” in gaining the trust of the boys and of their parents.
The allegations arose after the NSPCC set up a dedicated helpline for people who had encountered childhood abuse within football and was launched after a number of former footballers, including Billy Seymour, spoke on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme in November 2016.
Detective Chief Inspector Dave Brown, of Hampshire Police, said Higgins’ victims suffered “horrendous experiences” at the hands of a “predatory paedophile” and added “he thrived on controlling and manipulating his victims and knowing that he held the career prospects of many young men in his hands.” Higgins is due to be sentenced at a later date and is the latest in a string of high-profile prosecutions of former football coaches.
Police believe there could be more victims, who Detective Chief Inspector Brown urged to come forward.
If you have been affected by anything in this article and would like to speak to one of our specialist abuse lawyers in confidence, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can advise you on the available options for pursuing a civil damages claim. Jordans successfully represent and secure compensation for numerous victims of abuse and are experts in overcoming the particular challenges that arise in these sensitive cases. Our abuse team can be contacted on 0800 9555 094.