SFA apologises over failure to deal with child abuse claims

The Scottish Football Association has apologised for failing to properly deal with a past allegation of abuse against a youth coach and assistant referee.

SFA Chief Executive Stewart Regan spoke to BBC Scotland over child abuse claims. Picture: SNS Group

The Scottish Football Association has apologised for failing to properly deal with a past allegation of abuse against a youth coach and assistant referee.

SFA chief executive Stewart Regan told BBC Scotland his organisation takes full responsibility for child protection failings of the past, amid allegations against Hugh Stevenson.

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Pete Haynes, 50, waived his right to anonymity to speak to BBC Scotland and claimed he was sexually abused by Mr Stevenson over a three to four-year period from 1979.

He said it began the day of the 1979 Scottish Cup final between Rangers and Hibernian with the promise of a trial for a new club.

Mr Stevenson died in 2004 and Mr Haynes said he reported the allegations to police in 1993 and 1996, and also warned the SFA, but said he was never told of any outcome.

Mr Regan said: “We are extremely concerned by the allegations made by BBC Scotland tonight relating to historic sex abuse in Scottish youth football.

“On behalf of the Scottish FA, I apologise unreservedly to Peter Haynes for what appears to have been a wholly unsatisfactory outcome to his original sharing of information.

“We will work with existing and former staff to obtain as much information as possible in this regard and have also offered to meet Mr Haynes at a time appropriate to him. We will also liaise with Police Scotland to establish a full picture relating to this historic case.

“As stated in our interview, we are grateful to Mr Haynes and to BBC Scotland’s investigations team for bringing this matter to our urgent attention.

“Since confirmation of a confidential hotline and email address for any alleged victims to come forward, we have been in regular dialogue with NSPCC and Police Scotland.

“Moreover, we have established a taskforce including all relevant stakeholders to deal with matters such as Mr Haynes’s allegations and any further allegations that may arise.

“Allegations of abominable behaviour such as this vindicates our commitment to child protection and wellbeing. Through technology, child protection policies and procedures, and information sharing protocols with relevant authorities, we are now well-placed to deal with any complaints of sexual abuse.”

Mr Haynes said he hopes speaking out will give strength to other victims.

He told BBC Scotland: “I would encourage them to come forward and give information, whether they do that anonymously or like myself come forward and speak out about it.

“Anything like that would help this stop because at the end of the day we are all older now. We have children. They need to be protected as well.”

Meanwhile, Rangers confirmed a former youth coach was sacked following an allegation of inappropriate behaviour towards a teenage player.

Gordon Neely was a youth coach at Rangers in the 1980s when police were contacted over the claims made by the player and the club said he was “dismissed immediately”.

Hibernian has said it would “co-operate with any investigation” after further claims emerged in the Scottish Sun newspaper regarding Neely allegedly abusing young players at a training camp before he joined Rangers.

Talent scout Mr Neely was a youth coach who worked at Rangers for more than three years after leaving Hibernian in 1986.

Following his dismissal, his career is said to have stalled. He died from cancer two years ago, aged 62.

In a statement, the club said: “Rangers is now aware of an alleged incident involving an individual who worked very briefly for the club more than 25 years ago.

“It’s understood the individual was dismissed immediately and that the police were informed.

“Rangers wishes to stress that all employees adhere to the strictest codes of conduct, especially when dealing with children and young people.

“Rangers have not been approached by Police Scotland or any authority regarding this allegation.”

A Hibernian spokesman said: “We have not been contacted or made aware of the allegations but clearly this matter is of great concern and we will co-operate with any investigation to the fullest extent.”

The incident emerged as police across the UK probe allegations of historical sex abuse in football.