Premier League club, Southampton has apologized for failing to take action against the rumor that former youth coach Bob Higgins was sexually abusing youth footballers under his care.
The former Burnley footballer was a youth coach at Southampton and Peterborough United between 1971 and 1996. During that period, the retired footballer sexually abused youth players especially those who had to pass the night at his house.
Between 1971 and 1996, the Englishman molested at least 24 youth players mostly from Southampton and Peterborough United.
Even though he was a pedophile that molested players for 25 years, he was never caught in the act. It was after he had left Southampton that the victims started speaking out.
After a series of investigations and court hearings, Higgins was found guilty of 46 counts of indecent assault on 24 victims who were mostly underaged footballers.
Hence, the former English footballer was slammed with 24 years jail term in 2019, over 23 years after his nature of molesting youth players forced him to leave Southampton and Peterborough.
A report by children’s charity Barnardo’s, commissioned by Southampton, confirmed that the club’s board should have acted on rumors about Higgins’ illegal activities with the youth players.
But the club allowed the rumor to go unattended while the pedophile continued to molest the youth players for years before the 62-year-old English footballer decided to leave the club when the rumor was getting stronger.
“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 rumors,” the report stated.
“By not doing so, either intentionally or by default, the club failed to put the safety and welfare of boys concerned first…
“This left them and other boys vulnerable to ongoing abuse by Higgins which impacted upon their lives as children and the adults they became.”
Those abused were “offered no support and were left to make sense for themselves of all that happened”, the report added.
In reaction to the report, Southampton said in a statement that though those in charge of the club then did not want such a crime to go on, they failed to find out what was happening.
On behave of the past leaders of the club, the current leaders apologized to the victims and survivors of the sexual assaults.
“Bob Higgins held the dreams of so many young boys in his hands,” the club statement read.
“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 anybody at the club at that time wanted the abuse to occur. However, equally, no one in a position of power did anything to properly find out what was going on, to take action to make sure that the abuse was stopped and properly reported once it had been discovered, or to offer support to those who were targeted 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 at the club today is truly and deeply sorry for the harm and subsequent anguish that the victims and survivors of the abuse carried out by Bob Higgins have suffered over so many years.”
#SaintsFC has today published the Barnardo's independent review into historic abuse at the club in the 1970s and 1980s, along with its response:— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) November 26, 2021