Abuse in sport – a further update

Last year, Bob Higgins, a former youth football coach was found guilty of one count of indecent assault against a trainee and found not guilty of another similar offence.  The jury was unable to reach verdicts on 48 other counts of indecent assault and the matter was sent for a retrial.

Higgins has now been found guilty of 45 counts of indecent assault, mostly involving trainees at Southampton and Peterborough United between 1971 and 1996.  He was cleared of five counts of similar offences and the jury failed to reach a decision on a further count.

He has yet to be sentenced.

Higgins used his position of ‘supreme power’ to abuse boys with the fear that he could end their playing career.  Victims said they were abused during post-exercise soapy massages, in Higgins’ car and at his home.  Rumours about Higgins’s activities had been around for years but the allegations against him only formally arose after the NSPCC set up a dedicated helpline for people who had encountered childhood abuse within football.  Police believe there may be many more victims and that he may also have committed offences in Sweden during a youth football competition.

The FA commissioned independent inquiry led by Clive Sheldon investigating child sex abuse in football between 1970 and 2005 has previously been delayed due to ongoing criminal investigations.  Higgins’ conviction will allow the review to continue working to establish what the clubs and the FA knew about Higgins.

Meanwhile, in America a large story has broken concerning the former (and now deceased) Ohio State team doctor, Richard Strauss.  According to the report prepared following an independent investigation, Dr Strauss is said to have sexually abused at least 177 male students from 1979 to 1997.  The abuse is said to have taken place at various locations across campus, including examining rooms, locker rooms, showers and saunas, where Strauss would get the students to strip naked and grope them.

Like the UK, the US is currently dealing with its own crises as to abuse in sport to include shocking revelations and then convictions of former US Gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar, and the 2011 child sexual abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky at Penn State.

Written by David Milton and Michael Lee

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