sports gazette

EXCLUSIVE: Pat Nevin not surprised by child abuse news after Celtic Boys scandal

Published: 13 Dec 2016

You would have been living under a rock if you weren’t aware of the child abuse scandal that has been dominating football’s landscape over the last few weeks.

Pat Nevin, former Chelsea and Scotland player said he wasn’t surprised when he heard the news.

Football’s dark secret arose when Andy Woodward, Steve Walters, David White and Paul Stewart spoke about the abuse they suffered as young footballers.

Since they spoke out, 350 people have alleged they are victims with 98 football clubs involved in the inquiry.

Nevin told the Sports Gazette his reaction to the news: “Sadly, I was not even mildly surprised. I can’t say I’ve known that it’s in the game or it’s been involved in the game and coaching in youth development, but I would be surprised if it wasn’t.”

Since the floodgates opened, more than 20 former football players have come forward and 860 calls were made to a NSPCC helpline in the first three days.

Nevin explained why he wasn’t surprised as there was a scandal at his former club - Celtic Boys.

This involved club coach Jim Torbett, who in 1998 was convicted of sexually abusing Alan Brazil, David Gordon and James March between 1967 and 1974.

Nevin said: “I knew the individual who was the predatory paedophile there. He didn’t trouble me as my dad did the training sessions and games. I was never in danger, others were.”

One of those boys - from an older Celtic Boys Club side - was Alan Brazil, a former Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Scotland striker.

Brazil has since spoken, in depth, about when Torbett sexually assaulted him, aged 13, at his house where they were supposed to be talking tactics ahead of the European youth tournament.

Describing the incident Brazil told the Daily Record: “He sat down on the sofa close to me, much closer than I was comfortable with. Then, without any warning, he put his hand between my legs.

“I froze. I remember his horrible swollen face next to mine, he was smiling, he thought this was fun. I felt threatened. I leapt off the couch and headed for the bathroom because it had a lock on the inside. I just wanted to get away from him.”

Brazil said he grabbed his coat and ran out of the flat as fast as he could.

He added: “I didn't know what I was going to say to my parents. I worried that they might be able to tell that something had happened. I wasn't going to tell them. I couldn't.”

After this incident, Brazil was dropped from the European Youth Tournament, with no surprises as to the reason why.

When this came out years later, Nevin was asked to speak for the defence and the prosecution at the trial.

Describing how he felt at the time Nevin said: “I felt comfortable, I just said I’ll say what I’ve seen because I can’t say anymore, I’m not going to it make up, I’m not going to guess, I’ll just say what I’ve seen. What seemed odd, what seemed unusual, what in retrospect seemed different.”

Nevin in the end was not needed at the trial. However, Brazil’s testimony, after a 30 year wait, helped to jail Torbett sentencing him to 30 months behind bars.

But why did this story take so long to come out?

There was a chance in 1997, when Deborah Davis cast a light on the abuse in youngsters in UK football through a Channel 4 TV documentary.

Unfortunately, at the time of the broadcast, football seemed unwilling to listen.

Davis told the Daily Record: “Football had a responsibility then and it failed the boys. And it failed them again, by failing to listen to them. So it was a double-betrayal of their trust.”

Mrs Davis thinks the authorities have been slow to learn the lessons from previous abuse cases like the Celtic Boys Club.

Nevin explained why players didn’t want to speak out: “I’ve heard lots of hints during my career about players that have gone through it, but people were embarrassed to talk.”

Meanwhile, Bryan Swanson, Chief Reporter from Sky Sports News thinks it was down to the lack of support network at the time.

Swanson told the Sports Gazette: “I think that’s what’s changed, people should now hopefully realise that the support network is better than it’s ever been.”

Journalist Daniel Taylor reported in the Guardian that it isn’t easy to go public when there are children to tell, or elderly parents who might not have known anything about it.

Football clubs also didn’t want these stories to break and in some cases they offered players money to keep quiet.

Taylor said simply: “Money talks but it also stops talk.”

However, when Nevin was Chief Executive of a Motherwell football club he was willing to listen as he knew that paedophilia could be a problem.

So he implemented a Child Protection Policy, questioned all the coaches and made children knowledgeable in the hope that there wouldn’t be a repeat of Celtic Boys Club.

Nevin finished by saying: “It’s sickening, but good, let’s get it out there, let’s let these people know ‘there’s no safe place for you anymore, you can’t do that anymore, we’re waiting for you.”

The NSPCC’s hotline is 0800 023 2642 and ChildLine’s is 0800 1111.

The National Association for People Abused in Childhood can be contacted on 0808-801-0331

In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14.

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