Homeless charity employs ex-youth coach in scandal

A FORMER youth football player who claims he was '˜groomed' by a coach has spoken out after The News revealed the ex-trainer is employed by a charity that works with teenagers.

Tuesday, 13th December 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 14th December 2016, 1:37 pm
Former Southampton FC football coach Bob Higgins in 1992 Picture: Solent News & Photo Agency UK

Bob Higgins is the housing manager for Two Saints, which helps homeless and at-risk people across the Portsmouth and wider area.

It provides hostel accommodation for adults aged 16 and over.

Former Southampton FC youth officer Higgins has been named by former youth players at the club over alleged abuse by the coach.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Former Southampton FC football coach Bob Higgins Picture: Solent News & Photo Agency UK

Lee Smith, who waived his anonymity to speak to The News on Saturday about his claims of grooming, said Higgins should be kept away from working with children.

The 45-year-old yesterday said: ‘He should be kept away from children.

‘You’ve got to be careful. It just seems to me he’s always around children (in his careers).’

Two Saints confirmed to The News that Higgins is an employee but made no further comment. A statement from Steve Benson, chief executive of the charity, read: ‘We can confirm that Robert Higgins is employed by us but he’s not currently working in the business.’

Former Southampton FC football coach Bob Higgins Picture: Solent News & Photo Agency UK

Higgins, 63, has previously denied allegations and he was cleared of six counts of indecent assault at a trial on the direction of a judge in 1992.

Lee, a self-employed builder who lives in Portsmouth, added he had received messages of support since speaking out publicly.

He said: ‘The more people that come forward the better.

‘It seems more people are coming forward every day, which I think is a good thing.’

Lee said Higgins asked to hold his hand in a car just moments after asking if Lee, then 12, wanted him as a father figure.

In following years Lee said he was subject to naked soap water massages at the hands of Higgins.

Higgins worked with Southampton in the 1980s and was accused of indecent assaults against the young players, leading to court cases. He left in 1989 and a letter was sent to all clubs warning them to avoid the Bob Higgins Soccer Academy.

Hampshire Constabulary said it could not give any more details on its investigation and refused to confirm if officers had visited Higgins’ home.