Club statement: 16th March 2021

By SFC Media time Tue 16 Mar Club
Photo by Chris Moorhouse

Open communication to the victims and survivors of historic child abuse at Southampton Football Club...

To all of the victims and survivors of the child abuse carried out by Bob Higgins at Southampton Football Club in the 1970s and 1980s, we are deeply sorry.

Whilst we have provided statements from the club and written to a number of the survivors of Bob Higgins at their request, we have received feedback to suggest that this approach may not have reached everyone impacted in the way that we had hoped. We therefore hope this open apology might help to address this.

Over the course of this year, we will be providing information about the steps taken, and what the club were permitted to communicate externally, since the club were first contacted by Hampshire Police in 2016. Upon completion of the independent review currently being undertaken by Barnardo’s, we will publish what we have learned of the failings at the club that allowed and facilitated abuse to take place at that time, and how that abuse could have been prevented. It is very clear that, historically, there were some very considerable failings that allowed this abuse to start and continue for such a long period of time.

For a professional football club not to prevent this abuse or be able to provide support for anyone speaking up to report it, is inexcusable. This, along with the impact on the lives of the survivors of the abuse, as well as the families around them, is something we are very sorry for. We hope that the steps that we have taken to be entirely open with Hampshire Police since they contacted us in 2016 to make us aware of the possibility of abuse occurring at the club help to show that the club is a very different place now compared to the past. We also hope that being available to the survivors that wish to make contact with us since Higgins was convicted will help to rebuild some trust with those who suffered so badly under our care.

Over the last five years we have learned a great deal about the abuse that happened at the club. This has been helped greatly by the interactions that we have had with a number of the victims and survivors. Each of those people have displayed incredible dignity and bravery in being open with us about their experiences at the club, their views on what we can learn from those experiences so that we can apply those lessons to the safeguarding work we do now and their feelings on how we have handled engaging with the victims and survivors of abuse. We realise that this has not been perfect at times but it has been challenging.

If anyone who suffered abuse at the club would like to speak with us please make contact with us by emailing us at investigations@saintsfc.co.uk. We will be happy to arrange a time to cover anything that you might wish to discuss.

We are awaiting the publication of the Sheldon Review and have fully engaged in this. We hope that the findings allow us to further understand how football historically failed to protect so many young and aspiring footballers. We are open to anyone who wants to contact us after the publication of the Sheldon Review, or following the independent Barnardo’s review we commissioned in May 2019 and which we will publish in full once complete. Our door is open and we would like to hear from you.

Once again, we are truly sorry for the abuse that any player experienced at the club and hope that we might be able to offer any answers or support that any of you might require.

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