Blackpool FC to pay almost £20,000 to footballer abused by scout, court rules

Blackpool Football Club must pay nearly £20,000 to an aspiring footballer who was abused as a teenager by a convicted paedophile working as "a well-known scout" for the club, the High Court has ruled.

The man, who is now in his 40s and is known only as DSN for legal reasons, sued Blackpool FC over a sexual assault by Frank Roper on a youth football tour to New Zealand in the late 1980s, when he was 13 years old.

Roper, who died in 2005, sexually abused DSN and "many other young footballers during his time working as a scout at the club" while recruiting players to Blackpool's school of excellence, which was a "stepping stone" to signing a contract with the club, the court heard.

Despite being convicted of indecent assaults against young males on four occasions before he abused DSN, Roper was said to have "the run of the place", even entering Blackpool's Bloomfield Road ground via the players' entrance on match days.

At a trial in January, the court heard evidence from half a dozen men, including DSN, who were abused by Roper while training with Blackpool and Nova Juniors, a youth team run by Roper which acted as a "feeder club" and wore Blackpool's distinctive tangerine colours.

One witness who was abused by Roper between the ages of 11 and 16, known only as CFS, said he told Blackpool's youth coach Jack Chapman about the abuse, and was told a week later that "he had had a word with Roper and assured me that it would not happen again".

In a judgment delivered on Friday, Mr Justice Griffiths found that Blackpool was vicariously liable for Roper's abuse of DSN.

He said the club "gave Roper credibility by lavishing tickets and access on him and his proteges", adding: "Roper was not a footballer.

"The only currency he had to offer was his connection with Blackpool FC, and Blackpool FC kept him supplied with everything that it could, short of money, to confirm that connection and provide that currency to Roper for its own benefit."

Blackpool had contested DSN's claim, arguing that the club was not liable for the abuse as Roper was not an employee and that the claim was brought too long after the event.

But Mr Justice Griffiths said the then Blackpool manager Sam Ellis, whose own son was on the trip to New Zealand, had "endorsed the trip" and that, had he not done so, "the (other) parents would not have allowed their boys to go to the other side of the world with Roper, a man they did not know, accompanied by no other adult".

The judge was also critical of the club's approach to the case, stating: "Blackpool FC's conduct since being notified of the claim, up to and including the trial itself, has made things worse than they might have been.

"By never accepting any responsibility and never even accepting that the abuse had taken place at all, Blackpool FC maximised the suffering caused to DSN."