Ex-youth player to sue SFA over Hibs coach sex abuse claims

Hibs team pic 1985-86.''Gordon Neely is second from the right in second row. Picture: Contributed
Hibs team pic 1985-86.''Gordon Neely is second from the right in second row. Picture: Contributed

A FORMER Capital youth footballer is to join a legal action against the Scottish Football Association amid claims the sport’s governing body did not do enough to stop sexual abuse of young players.

Ex-Hutchison Vale boys’ club player Jon Cleland says he was preyed on by late Hibs and Rangers coach Gordon Neely.

Lawyers for the six started civil claims against the Scottish Football Association after a damning review was published into sex claims spanning decades.

“They are responsible for making sure those coaching our children are people we can trust,” said Mr Cleland, 46, of the SFA.

“I now wait to see if their words admitting their failings are backed up by action. I sincerely hope other survivors abused in Scottish football now feel able to come forward to have their voices heard.”

Leading law firm Thompsons Solicitors confirmed it will be sending the SFA details of the legal action this week.

The Hampden-based organisation was criticised last week in a highly critical report into historical abuse claims within the sport.

It concluded that child protection in the national game is “not fit for purpose” after police recorded 300 crimes during an abuse inquiry.

Brave Mr Cleland revealed his “horrendous” abuse claims last year after his alleged attacker died in 2014.

He said he was subjected to 18 months of serious sexual abuse when he was 11.

Mr Cleland said confiding to his wife details of the abuse for the first time and the six-hour police interview had been “very traumatic” experiences.

He added: “The procedures that now have to be put in place that have to safeguard children is a must - simple as that.”

Asked what safeguards still need to be put in place by the SFA, he said: “I think the admission that the whole coaching aspect of grassroots football was open to interpretation by lots of really, really nasty people.

“To admit that that went wrong and to move forward to put safeguards in place so that this cannot happen again, not just in football, but in other sporting organisations.

“I don’t think the safeguards were ever in place. I don’t think the safeguards are in place just now - but I am hoping that the realisation of the independent review will be scrutinised enough to say ‘yes, we need to do something about this’.”

Thompson’s partner Patrick McGuire said: “It’s to the SFA’s complete and utter shame that due to their incompetence and at times wilful disregard criminals of the worst kind preyed on youngsters who only wanted to play football.

“The legal action for compensation that my firm is undertaking on behalf of our clients is part of the process of seeking justice and it’s one that I expect the SFA to take very seriously and settle promptly.”

Janine Rennie chief executive of the survivors charity Wellbeing Scotland called on the SFA to deal with abuse allegations with “decency and transparency.”

The SFA declined to comment prior to receiving the legal action this week.

SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell has previously offered his “most heartfelt apology to those with personal experience of sexual abuse in our national game.”