Child Abuse in Scottish Football – Part 1

Written by TJ

What Fans Can Do

Child abuse is a heinous crime. A friend of mine who works in a high security prison would attest to how detested the criminals that perpetrate this crime are even among fellow inmates.  Scottish football has a historic child abuse scandal and the convictions are starting to mount.  It’s long past time for the good citizens of planet football to talk rationally about this.

The SFA to their credit have launched an independent investigation into this very subject. To date it has produced an interim report which makes very interesting reading and can be found here.  The scope appears appropriate and the recommendations to date appear to be both overdue and tackle the real issues.  First among them being a lack of diligent oversight by the Regulator and by the Clubs.  The Regulator needs to set the tone and standards but the clubs need to be responsible for their role in engaging people in football.  No club would appear to be more affected (and by inference either neglectful or unlucky) than Celtic.

This clear separation between the Boys Club and Celtic PLC may be strictly speaking legally accurate but everyone within Celtic Park must know that they let those children down. They must know a time is coming when hands need to be held up and making whatever reparations can be made are.  They failed to have a suitable system of control in place to prevent those monsters from bastardising their reputation for their own nefarious ends.  The SFA may have left clubs to their own devices (a failure in sporting governance) but each and every club has a Board responsible for safeguarding everything that club stands for.  Many clubs have been found wanting on this – Rangers, Hibs, Falkirk among them – but one such incidence is too many.  Taking away the hideous criminality of the perpetrators – surely even from a responsible attitude to risk management more should have been done. Especially given the nature of youth football and appeal to predators!

The crimes and alleged crimes are mainly historic in nature.  Many of the vitims – including Peter Haynes who bravely champions reform on behalf of all affected – will never see their abuser face justice.  Some of the accounts including Pete’s own at the hands of an SFA employee are so harrowing you could not read it and not be moved.  What can be built is a legacy to ensure it never happens again.  That does not happen by ignoring the issue.

We’ve been overtly critical of the SFA over many issues.  They  certainly deserve plenty of them including their role in the historic structures to protect children. On the issue of Pete Haynes abuse, they released a statement from Stewart Regan in which he “apologised unreservedly” for what happened.  That would have meant a lot and deserves to be recognised.  Others should take note.  Unfortunately for the SFA, comments later made by Ian Maxwell seemed to undo that to a large degree by insisting that the game in Scotland was “a safe place for children” despite the findings of the Interim Review to the contrary.  This is not an issue to be taken lightly and Maxwell faced calls to resign.  He has barely been heard from since.

In a similar vein, the sister and mother of the tragic Andrew Gray, a victim of notorious convicted paedophile Jim Torbett of Celtic Boys Club deserve immense credit.  Though their son died in a tragic accident before he could see justice dispensed, they’ve carried the torch at his request. We’d mentioned them in previous article calling out the shocking editorial job done at Daily Record when trying to do some good.  Their campaign to raise publicity, get answers from those in authority and provide a legacy for their devastated family should have the visible support of all football fans.  At the moment it seems to be mainly fans of Rangers getting behind it and credit to those that do from a sense of morality and justice because its a terrific campaign.  Unfortunately for some it seems to have become to others (a minority) a rallying point for anti-Celtic or Celtic fan nonsense not directly related to their failures of control. It would be great for the affected families if those who do so could use their campaigning to keep the focus on the victims, how it was allowed to happen and stopping it from happening again.  We are talking about a legacy of the abused victims here that provides a better future.  Encouraging fans of all other clubs to get behind this should now become the priority and that has to be bigger than a football rivalry.  I’d hope all the victims would be pleased to see unity within the football on this issue to improve things for the better.

In relation to Celtic fans – many of whom seem reluctant to discuss an issue which needs to be discussed; the child abuse issues must be a difficult issue. The fans bear no responsibility for the actions or inactions of those who should have provided controls and infrastructure to protect vulnerable youngsters dreaming of wearing their hoops. That’s equally true of Rangers fans when it comes to the financial mismanagement that lead to the administration and liquidation of the orginal company, so hopefully the crowing on that will quiet down a little if empathy prevails.  Seperate legal entity or not to the Boys Club there is an undeniable link in the minds and operation of the two.  Celtic owed a moral responsibility that they did not deliver.  I understand the club will have been instructed by their lawyers not to take responsibility – but for the victims what  cost is that coming at?  Look at what it meant to Peter Haynes to receive an unreserved apology. Celtic should have done more – a lot more – to prevent those they allowed to operate under their brand using it to abuse children.  They need now to not only to make amends but to ensure anyone at the club who may have had knowledge of what was happening gives a thorough accounting to the police.

As a group we were criticised by Celtic fans for saying that the subject should have formed part of the recent AGM.  How could it not though? Celtic should be on the front foot in rooting this out of the game and a proactive and open way given their perceived starting point.  Football is not above morality and a club purporting to be all about social values really ought to stand up and be counted on this.

As a group we’ve tried to provide some input into the ongoing review on how things could be made better.  This has been done through someone involved with the SFA review who may or may not choose to make himself known.  As a group acting on behalf of fans for greater fan involvement, the focus of this was heavily on what fans can do to help build this legacy. It is our view that the ‘laddishness’, inappropriate and inflammatory chants and shouts and the reluctance to call these out add to the problem.  Victims have a hard time coming forward and historically being seen as gay or having somehow having done something to encourage it is a big obstacle for young people. We as fans need to do our part in this and making our football stadiums and social interactions free of harmful elements can go a long way.  Rivalry in football is a great thing and should never be lost, but the nasty discriminatory elements are entirely unnecessary.  Scottish football can continue to be a riot of colour, passion, banter, tears and joy without the poisoned edge.

An extract from the Interim Report

Future articles in this series will look further at how the legacy of these brave campaigners and the independent review could take shape including the proposals already out and the affect they could have on behaviours within clubs, chains of responsibility and what part we can all play as fans.



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