1. ITV Report

Football coach who groomed sporty teenagers is jailed for nine years

Football coach Robert Ellis used his victims' love of football to groom them. Credit: Essex Police.

A football coach from Essex has been jailed for nine years for grooming and sexual activity with teenage boys.

Robert Ellis, 50, used his victims' love of football to engage with them and offered them gifts and trips so he could meet with them.

He met one of his 15-year-old victims online in April 2015 and continued to contact him for around nine months.

Ellis invited him to football matches, claimed to have talent spotted goalkeepers and offered to coach the teenager, who was from Lincolnshire.

The pair first met in a park in July 2015 where they played football and went for a meal. The boy's mother reported Ellis to police and banned her son from contacting him again.

But the contact began again in the December and arranged to meet. Ellis was arrested in January last year before the meeting took place.

It was while investigating the civil servant, from Church End in Harlow, that officers heard from another victim who claimed to have been in a sexual relationship with Ellis when he was 15.

Even while he was on police bail, Ellis met a 14-year-old boy and engaged in sexual touching.

Following a trial, the football coach - who had been banned from taking part in FA-related activity involving under 18s since 2013 - was found guilty of 10 charges including sexual activity with a boy aged under 15.

He was sentenced today (Friday April 7) to nine years in jail and will be on the sex offenders' register for life.

"This is a worrying grooming case where Ellis used his love of football and the suggestion of gifts or trips to various places to try and get a teenage victim into a situation where he could carry out sexual acts with him.

"Thankfully the victim’s family were able to recognise the risk from the messages exchanged and report the situation to police.

"Where Ellis was able to get unsupervised access to the other teenagers in this case, he went on to commit serious sexual offences.

"This case highlights the dangers of manipulative individuals operating on the internet looking to identify and exploit vulnerability or a common interest that will give them the opportunity to meet children for their own sexual gratification."

– Det Sgt Clayton Ford, Essex Police.