Child abuse in football is a hot topic these days and it is to be hoped that a beacon has been lit rather than just a flare into the night sky.
There must be root and branch investigations into every aspect of this horrific crime in our game – including the abominable practice of covering it up. Every second that the SFA refuse to launch an inquiry into the abuse of minors under its auspices is a deepening stain on its already tarnished reputation.
It is no great surprise that perverts were drawn to football coaching as a means of access to youngsters. The reality is that this has been with us for years and it takes events like Dunblane to sharpen our attention regarding it. I understand that the authorities are adverse to approaching the problem with a witch hunt mentality but this does not mean that there should not be a robust response when it comes to investigating any concerns or complaints regarding adults who coach youngsters. That there have been so many cases where people have gotten away with years of abuse, despite numerous complaints being made, is proof that such robustness was definitely lacking. Thomas Hamilton is a classic case in point
It is both sad and very creepy that in Scotland we have a historic propensity in both football and wider society to get a big brush out and sweep the noxious subject of child abuse under the carpet, as is evinced by the infamous cultural meme of “Big Jock Knew” or “BJK” in its shortened form. This refers to the notorious case of Jim Torbett, who abused boys under his care while manager of Celtic Boys Club. The full extent of how much club officials knew and either covered the abuse up or did nothing to alert the authorities is still a matter of fierce debate. However, newspapers at the time, including the Daily Record, recorded that there had been shameful attempts at covering up the entire affair and that the indecencies perpetrated by Torbett were an open secret behind the doors at Celtic Park.
Surely a thorough investigation into this is long overdue by the SFA?
Well, that might be a bit tricky when you consider certain facts. It is a matter of record that former Celtic chairman Jack McGinn was President of the SFA at the time of Torbett’s sentencing. McGinn was employed, along with another ex-chairman of Celtic – Kevin Kelly – by Torbett in his Trophy Centre business. Kelly was actually involved in three businesses with the shamed ex-coach.
So the President of the SFA had a senior position in a business owned by a man convicted of child molestation. This very fact should have prompted a full scale inquiry into McGinn’s suitability to hold high office in the SFA.
Especially when he was involved with the club that covered up the child abuse going on under its auspices.
Of course, the very mention of such things triggers allegations of Celtic-bashing and endless whataboutery. However, this IS a historic matter of child abuse and there WAS a cover-up according to many at the time. In the light of the floodgates being opened on historic child abuse in our game, it would be very, very sinister if the Torbett/Cairney scandal was not subject to the most rigorous inquiry.
The truth is EVERY instance of child abuse in Scottish football should be investigated and criminals brought to justice. Furthermore, any attempt to sweep such abuse under the carpet should result in severe internal punishments, including title-stripping and heavy fines. That is to say nothing of the legal aspects such as attempting to pervert the course of justice and tampering with evidence.
It has recently come out that Gordon Neely was bulleted from Ibrox by Graeme Souness and Walter Smith once his own perversions were uncovered. Neely’s activities are presently the subject of much interest. This is another matter that must be thoroughly investigated.
Clearly clubs are not liable for the depravity of coaches and others who turn out to be “stoat the baws” rather than decent people with a genuine heart for the kids in their care. However, they become liable if they uncover such depravity and do nothing or attempt to hide it.
Every football club in the land must cooperate in a 100% transparent inquiry and investigation into any instances of inappropriateness, molestation or rape that may have taken place under its auspices.
Football must be purged of this horrible stain, as must our society.
Children and youngsters’ safety must be absolutely paramount in our thinking.
No more abuse – and no more cover-ups!