Former youth player exposes impunity of predator coaches in Scottish game

Nathanael Williams

CommonSpace writer and survivor speaks to STV to tell story of predatory youth coaches acting with impunity and repeating their offending

AN ex-youth football player has alleged that he was the subject of predatory behaviour by a football coach who was convicted of lewd behaviour in 1968, and who was still allowed to train young boys for decades later.

The recollections of the man, known only as ‘James’, made first in an opinion article he wrote for CommonSpace, shed new light on the culture of protection and complacency surrounding the sexual abuse of children in the Scottish youth football circuit. 

James, who played youth football during the 60s, made the allegations against Robert Smith, a youth coach in Easterhouse, who recently received a two-year sentence for abusing boys during the 1970s and 80’s, in addition to his earlier conviction.

Following an opinion article he wrote for CommonSpace, documenting his fears about the extent of abuse, the anonymous man made allegations of sexual advances that were made on him by Smith and another youth coach Hugh Stevenson on STV news last night (14 December).

 Scotland’s predatory football coaches knew each other – we must get to the truth about historical child abuse

Talking to STV news, he said: “He (Smith) was always trying to kiss me or put his hand on me. I ran away basically because – I thought no, this isn’t right.”

James believes he escaped the worst abuses of Smith. He also produced an account of an incident with Stevenson, the SFA referee and youth coach who escaped without charge or conviction after thirty years in the game, who he claimed on one occasion “came over to put his hand in my pocket.”

The revelations about Stevenson, who coached at Cowdenbeath, Paisley and clubs all across Scotland, have shaken the world of Scottish football. Accounts of abuse began to emerge when Peter Haynes who played football under the linesman, referee and youth coach, alleged that Stevenson had abused him 1979 and 1982. Police Scotland confirmed that they had investigated the youth coach in 1993 and 1996, however Stevenson died in 2004 without any charges being laid.

Reiterating statements in his article, James told the programme that he strongly believed that there were a group of men involved in abuse over decades, who knew each other and cooperated. He said he believed this group included Smith, Stevenson and a person he described as “one other lad from Celtic Boys Club, Jimmy Torbett”. Torbett was jailed in 1998 for sexual offences against boys.

The SFA, under severe political and public pressure, announced on Tuesday (13 December) that they will establish an “abuse review” in response to numerous allegations which have emerged in recent weeks.

Picture: STV

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