After following the harrowing story of Andy Woodward and the abuse he suffered at the hands of his Crewe Alexandra coach, Barry Bennell, I decided to look for any similar abuse cases within football. Since Andy waived his anonymity, Steve Walters has confirmed he was another victim of Bennell. Paul Stewart, ex England star has also revealed a 4 year ordeal at the hands of a trusted coach.
As the details of these cases emerge, we can only hope and pray that the abuse was nowhere near as bad as the worst sport related child abuse episode in Britain.
We can only hope and pray that the clubs involved were not involved in covering up the abuse to protect their own name.
We can only hope and pray that the authorities don’t turn a blind eye if that is the case.
For that is exactly what happened in the following case.
On 27th November 1998, Jim Torbett was caged for a string of sexual attacks on young football starlets in his care at Celtic Boys Club. Paedophile Torbett, himself had approached Jock Stein and asked for permission to use the club’s name, and it was to act as a feeder club for Celtic FC.
Whispers had always surrounded Celtic Boys Club, however it wasn’t until the arrival of Fergus McCann in 1994 that the club began to address these serious allegations in a proper fashion, after receiving an anonymous letter about the abuse. This despite an investigation by the Daily Record finding that the board had known about this abuse for 20 years.
In 1970, four years after the formation of the club, Jim Torbett was joined by Frank Cairney, who was also to be accused of the abuse youngsters in his charge. Between the two of them, many young lives would be ruined forever. We will not go into the details of the abuse, but rather the disgusting cover up, which to this day has still gone unpunished by the justice system & the footballing authorities.
In 1976 Jim Torbett was replaced by the club photographer, Hugh Birt. According to Frank Cairney’s statement, Torbett broke down in tears when confronted by the committee and confessed to Jock Stein who literally kicked him out the door. Conveniently, the minutes of this meeting were lost. Mr Birt was to tell the court at Torbett’s trial that Mr Stein warned him to ‘keep the club’s name clean’.
Cairney’s statement seems to be backed up by John McCluskey, one of the paedophile’s victims. Mr McCluskey, who was described by Charlie Nicholas as ‘the best young player I have ever seen’ has battled drug & drink addictions since the ordeal which ruined his chance to play for the club that he loved. McCluskey felt the need to speak out after being affected by the Dunblane massacre, and the news that the victims of the monster responsible for the tragedy, Thomas Hamilton, had kept quiet. McCluskey alleged‘He (Stein) kicked Torbett out, but it was still kept quiet. All the directors and lots of others knew why he got the boot, but it was swept under the carpet’.
Although the whispers continued after Torbett’s dismissal, it would be 1991 before the story would begin to unravel. During a trip to New Jersey, a 13 year old boy confided in his host family, that he had been abused by Frank Cairney. His family were notified, and his father took him to the Parkhead to confront then boss, Liam Brady. Brady believed the boy and insisted that the board remove Cairney from all roles within the club. Rather than approach the authorities, however, the adults were, allegedly, made to sign statements for Celtic lawyers, swearing them to secrecy, after an agreement was reached with the boy, his family, Liam Brady & the Celtic board. Again swept under the carpet!
So Frank Cairney was kicked out of the club for good, but by this time Jim Torbett, the known child abuser, had worked his way back in. Good friends with Kevin Kelly, he was a regular in the directors box at the Celtic Park and had been asked to help make the Celtic Club shops profitable, due to his expertise in the retail business through The Trophy Centre. A business which now sponsored most of the youth competitions in Scotland. A business which listed Kevin Kelly as a director, and Jack McGinn as an employee. That is Jack McGinn, who was to become President of the SFA. Jack McGinn who was, at the time of the New Jersey incident, Treasurer of the SFA. & Chairman of Celtic FC.
Hugh Birt had been asked to resign after approaching Kevin Kelly about his concerns. After refusing to resign, Kelly, defending his paedophile pal, withdrew Birt’s tickets from the directors box and gave him no option but to walk.
Three years after the New jersey sex abuse, Fergus McCann had swept into town, to take control of Celtic FC. He received an anonymous letter alleging abuse, and sought to investigate it. McCluskey & another former Celtic Boys Club player, Allan Brazil, were asked to make written statements after the unrepentant paedophile friend of the Celtic board, refused to admit his crimes.
Lou Macari, in his autobiography, admits that it was an open secret.
Jock Stein is apparently a hero for kicking this vile creature out of the club. Any normal person would have gone to the authorities, not harbour a paedophile! Why did Torbett’s friends in the boardroom think that it was more important to protect the club’s name than protect thechildren in their care?
Why didn’t the authorities & the media in Scotland follow up on the Torbett trial and the Daily Record investigation? Why were criminal charges not brought against Kelly, Brady & others?
For many years now, Celtic fans and a compliant media have turned the tables on anyone who dares bring up the biggest scandal to hit British sport. It is more of a crime to question how the club has got away with their actions, than it is to pervert the course of justice and harbour a paedophile.
*The information relating to the Jim Torbett abuse, the alleged abuse by Frank Cairney and the details of Celtic FC knowledge and inaction have been taken from sources including Daily Record, Evening Times & Scotland on Sunday.