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  1. ITV Report

Bob Higgins jailed for historical abuse of young footballers

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Former youth football coach, Bob Higgins, has been sentenced to 24 years and 3 months in prison for the historical abuse of young footballers.

Last month, the 66-year-old was found guilty of 45 charges of indecent assault against 23 boys aged between 11 and 17 between the 1970s and 1990s.

He was found guilty of another count of indecent assault against a boy in a trial last year, bringing the total to 46 charges against 24 boys.

Higgins ran youth training programmes at Southampton and Peterborough Football Clubs, while also spending time as the Maltese national youth coach.

Credit: Hampshire Police

Sentencing Higgins at Winchester Crown Court, Judge Peter Crabtree said he was "predatory, cunning and manipulative" and used sexualised behaviour to "normalise" the abuse he carried out.

As well as the prison sentence, Higgins was ordered to sign the sex offenders' register and was also banned from working with children and made subject to a supervision order on his release.

The judge told him: "A number of the boys idolised you and were prepared, and did, anything to further their dreams of becoming a professional footballer."

  • Former Southampton youth player Dean Radford speaks outside of court following Higgins' sentence

Across two days at his sentencing, victims and their families gave impact statements, describing a "conveyor belt of abuse" suffered at the hands of Higgins.

Courts were told that Higgins had abused his position of power over young players, taking advantage of them for his own sexual purposes.

Many of the victims described Higgins as 'God-like', a 'mentor' and a 'father figure', indicating the influence he had over them.

Several said they could not make a complaint against him because they feared it would be the end of their football career.

Bob Higgins treated me like a son, from being a slacker I was elevated to pride of my school and family because he gave me the confidence.

"Bob Higgins gave me a glimpse of what my life could be, and it all came tumbling down during a soapy naked massage.

"Could I really have made it? I suppose I will never know, my chance was stolen."

– VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT

Following the sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Dave Brown said: “Bob Higgins used his position as a trusted and respected football coach to abuse young boys for decades.

“He exploited this privileged position where he was given largely unsupervised access to children, in the most horrendous way. The power and control he exerted over these boys is deeply disturbing and the affect his actions had on these boys- now men, cannot be underestimated.

“His actions have destroyed the lives of many of his victims – some of whom have only recently had the confidence to acknowledge this abuse and report it to police.

“Today’s sentence reflects how seriously we take this sort of offending and should offer hope to those people who have been victims of non-recent sexual abuse that any information they give will be taken extremely seriously and investigated thoroughly."

Bob Higgins arriving at Bournemouth Crown Court during a retrial last month

Southampton Football Club issued an apology to the victims and their families in a statement in June.

Following Higgins' conviction, the club says it is extending its own investigation.

It says: "This review will allow us to fully understand and learn from what happened at the club in the past. The scope and terms of reference of this investigation will also fully address all information and reporting requests made to the club by the Sheldon review."

  • Higgins' abuse spanned three decades, as Richard Slee explains: