Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Clubs warned about ex-Southampton football coach accused of abuse

Bob Higgins
Image caption Bob Higgins faced charges of sexual abuse in 1992, but was cleared on the direction of the judge

The Football League warned its clubs about a former Southampton youth coach who has since been accused of abusing boys as far back as 1989.

A letter advised them not to work with Bob Higgins's youth football academy. It did not provide any reasons.

Six former Southampton youth players have made allegations that Mr Higgins abused them. He denies any wrongdoing.

In 1992 he faced charges of sexual abuse but was cleared on the direction of the judge.

Southampton FC has offered police its support to any investigation. Hampshire Constabulary has confirmed it is investigating allegations of historical abuse in the football community.

The Football League has confirmed it sent the letter in April 1989 but it is unclear exactly what prompted the warning.

The letter, revealed by The Guardian newspaper, states the Football League, the Football Association and English Schools Football Association were "opposed to the activities" of the Bob Higgins Soccer Academy.

Bob Higgins left Southampton FC the same year.

In 1997, five years after he was cleared in court, a letter was sent to schools and youth groups from Hampshire Police and social services in which they raised concerns that Mr Higgins posed a risk to children.

Mr Higgins joined Peterborough United as a coach in the mid-90s.

A statement released by the Cambridgeshire club said: "Mr Higgins was employed by the football club by previous owners and a past management team. The club are holding an internal investigation into this matter and will take any allegations seriously. We will co-operate with all of the governing bodies and the police during this time."

He also went on to work with Winchester City in 2001.

In a statement, Winchester City confirmed Mr Higgins joined the club in an "advisory role" but after a warning to the club's chairman from social services, he was told his position was "untenable".

"We would stress that Mr Higgins was only ever involved with the senior team at WCFC. He had no contact whatsoever with the junior section, or children under the age of 17. We have no reason to believe that Mr Higgins was involved in any inappropriate behaviour whilst in the employ of the club," it added.

Image caption The April 1989 letter warns clubs against involvement with the Bob Higgins Soccer Academy

Mr Higgins has most recently worked with Fleet Town FC - a semi professional team in Hampshire. On Sunday, the club said he was no longer involved with them and had worked on an "informal unpaid basis".

It said Mr Higgins was not police checked in 2012 as his role did not involve working with children.

The BBC has tried to contact Bob Higgins about the allegations of abuse which have emerged in recent days - he has not responded.

He has always denied any wrongdoing.

Hampshire's police and crime commissioner, Michael Lane, said: "A lot of people need to examine their consciences about whether they took the right action years ago; I hope they do.

"I'm certain that the constabulary would work with people who felt that they were at risk or abused in any way. My chief constable and her team are absolutely determined to treat people in a sensitive and professional way."

Around the country, a total of 450 people have alleged they were victims and 55 football clubs are linked to allegations of abuse.

Some 20 police forces have announced investigations into claims of sexual abuse in football.

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