Claims abuse allegations were hushed up by club

Hibs director Kenny Waugh at Easter Road football ground in July 1983.
Hibs director Kenny Waugh at Easter Road football ground in July 1983.
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HIBS have urged a close friend of the club’s former chairman Kenny Waugh to go to the police with allegations that child abuse was ‘hushed up’ at Easter Road in the 1980s.

Sports journalist Ray Hepburn said disgraced football coach Gordon Neely – accused of a string of sexual attacks on children – was sacked by Hibs in 1986 for abusing two boys.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney. Picture: Phil WIlkinson

Deputy First Minister John Swinney. Picture: Phil WIlkinson

But the police were never called in – leaving Neely free to move to Rangers and continue abusing youngsters.

Neely was at Ibrox for four years before being fired by then-manager Graeme Souness when a youth team player told his father of abuse at the hands of the coach.

He is also accused of carrying out a number of sexual assaults on boys while at amateur side Hutchison Vale.

Mr Hepburn said Waugh – a close friend who died last year – told him he sacked Neely from Hibs after complaints were made by two different families.

But the former chairman allegedly decided not to involve police as he was worried about the negative impact on the club.

Mr Hepburn told a Sunday newspaper: “Kenny wanted it dealt with swiftly to reaffirm Easter Road was a safe place for youngsters.

“So Rangers were denied knowledge of Neely’s activities – and they would certainly never have employed him, had they known.”

A Hibs spokesman said: “We would encourage Mr Hepburn to go to the police with his information.” The club previously said it had “no record” of any complaints against Neely while he was at Hibs.

Kenny Waugh Jnr, Mr Waugh’s son, told the Evening News he knew nothing about the allegations.

The revelations came as Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the Scottish Football Association (SFA) should set up an independent inquiry into allegations of historical child abuse. He said the inquiry should be conducted by an “authoritative, independent, respected figure” who could consider the issue “without fear or favour”.

Mr Swinney said: “I think first and foremost the police have got to be given the time and space to address any complaints that are made by any individual who has had the awful experience of being affected by child abuse within football.”

He added: “The SFA has got to consider setting up an independent inquiry that will satisfy that these issues are being properly and fully addressed by everyone involved in football”.

A spokesman for the SFA said the organisation is “open-minded to an independent review but with the right scope and terms of reference”.

Police have launched a nationwide probe in response to numerous allegations of child abuse in football which have emerged in recent days.

Asked about Neely’s time at Hibs, a spokesman for the force said: “Police in Edinburgh have received a report of non-recent sexual abuse that took place during the 1980s and inquiries are continuing to establish the full circumstances surrounding this matter.”

alistair.grant@jpress.co.uk