Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Southampton apologise to Bob Higgins' abuse victims

Bob Higgins Image copyright Solent News & Photo Agency
Image caption Bob Higgins was convicted of dozens of counts of indecent assault

Southampton Football Club has offered an "unreserved apology" to the former trainee footballers abused by paedophile Bob Higgins.

The Premier League outfit said it had been told by police not to contact victims or witnesses until after the former coach is sentenced.

Higgins, 66, was found guilty of indecently assaulting 24 boys last month, most of whom were youth players at Southampton and Peterborough United.

He will be sentenced at a later date.

In a statement, the club said it recognised boys under its care "suffered exposure to abuse when they should have received protection from any form of harm".

"For this the club is deeply sorry," it added.

Southampton said it understood its lack of contact with victims "may have caused some anger and further distrust, but this approach has been absolutely necessary to ensure a fair trial".

"We can confirm that we will start consulting with victims and survivors individually once the police have confirmed that it is acceptable for us to do so," the club said.

Higgins was convicted at his retrial of 45 counts of indecent assault between 1971 and 1996. He was found guilty of another count last year.

Bournemouth Crown Court heard Higgins groped and sexually touched boys during massages, and in his car and at his home.

Image caption Young players would train in the gym at The Dell in Southampton

A solicitor representing some of the 66-year-old's victims said last month that clubs had a duty of care and should "accept responsibility".

Dino Nocivelli added parents trusted the clubs with their children and the former trainees would sue both Southampton and Peterborough.

"Even after the convictions...we're still waiting for an actual apology," he previously said.

The club said now the criminal trial was complete it would undertake a "full review" to "fully understand and learn from what happened at the club in the past".

It added: "We hope that over time we will be able to provide the support, understanding and tangible action to help each of them."

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