New evidence has emerged suggesting Rangers FC covered up the reasons why a former youth coach accused of child sex offences left the club.
Gordon Neely was sacked in 1991 after a complaint from worried parents who then reported him to the police. Neely coached children at Hutcheson Vale, Hibernian and Rangers in the 1980 and 90s. A BBC Scotland investigation in 2017 revealed the extent of his abuse at those three clubs, including allegations that Hibs failed to pass on concerns about his behaviour when Neely moved to Rangers in 1986. He continued on abusing there until a complaint was made in 1991 which then led to his dismissal.
The boy, who is in his 40’s now and who made the complaint which led to Neely’s sacking has broken his silence and says Rangers’ statements that a police report was made are “total lies”. The boy told his parents at the time, that in order to avoid disciplinary action and from them finding out about it, he agreed to being spanked by Neely in his office whereby he had to pull his pants down and bend down. They then informed Ibrox what had happened and were invited to a meeting with the managers and Neely who was confronted and sacked on the spot. Since 2016, Rangers insisted Neely was also reported to the police but when he made his statement to the Police in 2016 there was no such record.
In an edition of the in-house weekly newspaper Rangers News on 20 March 1991, a story titled “Neely Moves On” appears on page two and stated that Neely “resigned last week after spending four years at Ibrox” and who was previously with Dundee United and Hibernian, has decided to go into business, “The club wishes him every success in the future.”
Martin Henry, who led the SFA review into child abuse in football, told the BBC his review had been “unable to confirm either way whether an actual formal report was made to Strathclyde police at that time”. But despite Rangers’ claims that Neely was sacked and reported to the police, that’s not what they told the public.
He said the article was “concerning,” and was “new information” that his review had not previously been aware of and added “It would concern me if any institution knew that somebody presented a potential risk to young people and didn’t follow it up with due care. And from what I’ve read, that appears to be the case and “can only construe it could well be that this was a public relations attempt to just explain Mr Neely’s departure and to do it in a way that was as less compromising as possible.” Mr Henry’s full SFA report will be published this year.
A spokesman for club said: “Rangers based its prior description as to what occurred on trusted first-hand accounts from those with personal knowledge of what took place and the appropriate steps taken at that time. “To suggest… that these are invalidated by a short, filler piece in the Rangers News written almost 30 years ago by someone who clearly had no knowledge of the events, or the reasons for Neely’s sacking is nonsense.” And added: “Rangers will do all it can to assist in offering support and counselling to anyone affected. Their wellbeing should be at the centre of every right thinking person’s concern.”
Neely died in 2014 from cancer and never faced justice.
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