UK

Aston Villa did not report abusive scout to police

  • 30 January 2017
  • From the section UK
Ted Langford Image copyright Sports Argus
Image caption Ted Langford was sentenced to three years in prison in 2007 for sexual abuse between 1976 and 1989.

Aston Villa sacked a scout accused of sexually abusing boys in 1988 but did not go to police, the Victoria Derbyshire show has discovered.

Ted Langford later admitted sex offences, dating from 1976 until after he left the club in 1989.

Tony Brien, who was abused from age 12, said he felt senior figures at the club pressed him not to pursue the matter.

Then-assistant manager, Dave Richardson, strongly denies any role in deterring Mr Brien from going public.

Mr Richardson, who later became head of youth development at the Premier League, said he did everything possible to protect young players.

He said he raised the matter with manager Graham Taylor and chairman Doug Ellis, an internal investigation took place and it was decided there was not enough evidence to go to the police as the parents involved did not want to take the matter any further.

An Aston Villa spokesman said the club "considers the safeguarding and welfare of all players and staff to be of paramount importance.

"Aston Villa would encourage anyone with any allegation or concern regarding safeguarding or other potential wrongdoing to contact the relevant authorities."

Media captionTony Brien said his scout claimed his sperm was needed to determine whether he had a "footballer's gene"

Mr Brien - who has waived his right to anonymity - told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme he was abused numerous times while playing for local youth team Dunlop Terriers from the age of 12. He never played for Aston Villa.

"[Langford] said he needed to take a sperm sample to determine whether I had a footballer's genes or not. I felt ashamed and dirty.

"It's something you never lose. It will never go away from your mind."

Ted Langford, who died in 2012, worked as a scout for Leicester City and Aston Villa in the 1970s and 80s, as well as running Dunlop Terriers.

Leicester City said in a statement that the club has "no indication of any current or historic allegations made against or in relation to [its] employees.

"We would, of course, investigate fully in the event any further information comes to light."

Image copyright Tony Brien
Image caption Tony Brien said he was abused while playing for Dunlop Terriers

Langford also worked as a bin man, collecting rubbish from schools in the West Midlands.

He was sentenced to three years in prison in 2007 for the sexual abuse of four young players in the 1970s and 80s. He was working for Aston Villa and Leicester City for much of that time. Mr Brien was not involved in the criminal case.

Mr Brien said Langford "used to have a different boy in his bed with him every single night" on football trips abroad run by the scout.

He said other boys would appear with "love bites" on their bodies but the abuse was never mentioned.

Another young player who went on a separate trip with one of Langford's youth teams told the BBC a very similar account of the abuse.

Professional career

Aged 16, Mr Brien was signed for Leicester City by youth team manager Dave Richardson. Ted Langford also worked for the club as a part-time scout.

Mr Brien made 16 appearances for the first team before moving on to Chesterfield, West Bromwich Albion and Hull City.

In 1988 - after Mr Richardson and scout Langford had joined Aston Villa - Mr Brien said he made the decision to call Mr Richardson to warn him about the scout's behaviour.

Image copyright Tony Brien
Image caption Youth team manager Dave Richardson signed Tony Brien for Leicester City

Mr Brien, aged 18 or 19 at the time, claimed he had "two or three" conversations with Mr Richardson and another senior figure at the club, but was put off from going public with the allegations.

Mr Brien said he was asked: "Do you really think you can put up with the obscenities from the terraces?"

He felt he had been effectively told to "sweep the matter under the carpet and keep quiet", he added.

He now says he was would have been prepared to report the abuse to the police at the time if asked.

Dave Richardson strongly denies he advised Mr Brien he should not go public.

In earlier conversations with the BBC he appeared to agree he had held a series of conversations with the player.

"The bottom line is once he'd rung me, [I would have said] 'We're dealing with it, it will be dealt with in such a way whereby you don't have to worry'," he said.

"I would have told him, 'Leave it with me and we'll deal with it'. I wouldn't brush it under the carpet, otherwise I wouldn't have sacked him."

But in a later statement released by the law firm Slater and Gordon he said: "I cannot recall ever having a conversation with him about any allegations of abuse."

Image copyright Tony Brien
Image caption Aston Villa first team squad photo 1988-89, featuring manager Graham Taylor (bottom, centre) and Dave Richardson (on his right)

Mr Richardson said around this time he had already been contacted by a number of other boys and parents concerned about Langford's behaviour.

He said he raised the matter with manager Graham Taylor and chairman Doug Ellis and an internal investigation took place.

Langford was dismissed, but Mr Richardson felt - "in conjunction with the chairman and the manager" - he did not have enough evidence to go to the police as the parents involved did not want to take the matter any further.

"I took these [allegations] extremely seriously and began making enquiries," said Dave Richardson.

"These led me to speak to the parents of two young footballers at Aston Villa who each told me their sons had been abused by Ted Langford.

"I asked them if they were going to report the allegations to the police or if they wanted me to. After consulting with each other, both sets of parents told me that they did not want the matter reported to the police," he said.

Then, as now, there was no legal requirement for Dave Richardson or Aston Villa to report concerns about Ted Langford to the authorities.

"[Back then] there were no safeguarding arrangements in football," said Mr Richardson.

"It's different now. I would go straight to the safeguarding person and say, 'Look, we have a reason to believe that someone is guilty of malpractice, you need to look into it'."

Mr Ellis, now 93, said he remembered being spoken to about allegations of a child sex abuser at the club but could not recall being involved in any discussion about whether the police should informed.

Arrest and conviction

It is not clear what happened to Ted Langford after he was sacked by Aston Villa in 1988.

According to Mr Richardson, the word had got out that Langford could not be trusted.

In 2007, the scout was convicted of a range of offences that took place between 1976 and 1989, a year after he left the club.

It is understood the case will form part of the independent investigation into historical abuse in football currently being conducted on behalf of the Football Association.

Dave Richardson said he had not yet been contacted as part of that inquiry.

Watch the Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News channel.

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