Scotland

Coach Barry Bennell 'abused young Scots footballer'

  • 28 November 2016
  • From the section Scotland
Media captionDougie Gilligan said he was abused twice by coach Barry Bennell

A Scottish man who says he was abused by former Crewe Alexandra coach Barry Bennell has warned that sexual abuse in football could be a "huge" problem.

Dougie Gilligan, from Hamilton, said Bennell had abused him on two occasions during a coaching camp at Butlins in the 1970s.

A string of historical claims have also been made by former players in England.

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) is meeting to discuss child safety within the game.

The association has been urged to launch a full investigation to determine the extent of sexual abuse in the game. The English FA has appointed an independent lawyer to assist with an internal review of its handling of allegations.

Former SFA chief executive Gordon Smith said it was important the body prepared for cases to come to light in Scotland.

Mr Gilligan told BBC Scotland he had suffered "low level" abuse at two Butlins camps in England and Wales in the late 1970s.

"He [Bennell] was very much like a kind of man's man. Somebody that a young boy would look up to. Very well connected in football, did a lot of name-dropping with famous footballers. Had a lot of football strips," he said.

"Thinking back on it, a classic predatory paedophile groomer to be honest. But at the time, as a 13-year-old boy, you don't see that.

"He abused me on a very minor level, but I reacted to it quite aggressively."

Mr Gilligan said Bennell had abused him while he was staying overnight at the former coach's chalet with two other boys.

"I woke up... I basically give him short shrift and told him where to get off and that was it," he told BBC Scotland.

"So I feel kind of lucky, I dodged the bullet a little bit in that it was low level from my perspective. I don't see it as major in comparison to what I've heard of some of the revelations recently."

Abuse stigma

Mr Gilligan, who later played football semi-professionally, said he had spoken to the police in 1996 and had been ready to testify before Bennell pled guilty.

He has now called for a thorough investigation into the extent of sexual abuse in football.

"I think it could be huge. Because of the type of stigma attached to it, people are very reluctant to come forward and that's one of the things I feel a little bit guilty about myself, that I didn't speak up earlier," he said.

"Although I did in 1996, I could have spoken up earlier and that could have helped people."

Bennell, 62, is being treated in hospital after an incident in Stevenage in Hertfordshire on Friday evening. Police were responding to what they said was a "fear for welfare" report.

The SFA announced last week that it was supporting the NSPCC's campaign to encourage anyone with knowledge of child abuse in football to speak out.

Former Rangers and Manchester City player Gordon Smith was SFA chief executive from 2007 until 2010.

Speaking on the BBC's Good Morning Scotland radio programme, he said: "I think they (the SFA) just need to announce that they are doing a full investigation into it, just to make sure.

"And if there are any cases that do come up then we need to make sure that these will be dealt with, and the players who have been involved - the ones who have actually been abused - will receive help and counselling.

"We'll make sure it doesn't happen again."


Image caption David White (L), Paul Stewart (C) and Andy Woodward all say they have been abused

In England, four police forces are investigating the allegations after former footballers came forward to say they were sexually abused as youth players.

An NSPCC hotline has had more than 100 calls.

The English FA's internal review will look at what information the FA was aware of at relevant times, which clubs were aware and what action was, or should have been, taken.

Former Manchester City and England player David White is among several who claim they were abused by former Crewe Alexandra coach Bennell.

The 62-year-old was jailed in 1998 for sex offences against children and was imprisoned again last year.

In the same year, James Torbett, a former coach at Celtic Boys' Club, was convicted of abusing three young players, including former Scotland international Alan Brazil.

Last week Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People, Tam Baillie, said the allegations made by players in England may be the tip of the iceberg.

He told BBC Scotland: "I fear we are on the brink on many more revelations."

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