BOURNEMOUTH, England (AP) — A former youth-team soccer coach has been found guilty of 45 charges of indecent assault against 23 teenage boys.
Bob Higgins ran the youth training programs at English clubs Southampton and Peterborough and also was Malta’s national youth coach.
A jury returned guilty verdicts following a retrial at Bournemouth Crown Court, with the 66-year-old Higgins accused of sexually abusing schoolboy players across a period of 25 years.
Higgins, who was also convicted of a further count of indecent assault at the original trial held last year, showed no emotion as the verdicts were read. He was remanded in custody to be sentenced on a future date.
Higgins was cleared of five counts of indecent assault and the jury was unable to reach a verdict on a final charge.
Many of the victims described Higgins during the nine-week trial as their mentor and a father figure. Several spoke of their inability to make a complaint against him because they feared it would be the end of their burgeoning career in soccer.
Higgins was accused of groping some victims during post-exercise soapy massages, as well as at his home and in his car.
The court heard that Higgins was acquitted at a trial held in the early 1990s of a series of indecent assaults.
The new case against Higgins was brought after the BBC in November 2016 exposed claims of abuse. A helpline subsequently set up led to 87 referrals to police, all of them naming Higgins.
Higgins is the latest in a string of high-profile prosecutions of former soccer coaches.
Barry Bennell was jailed in February 2018 for 30 years for sexual offenses against junior players at Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra.
George Ormond, who worked for Newcastle’s youth team, was given a 20-year prison sentence in July 2018 for sex-abuse offenses spanning 25 years.
A former kit manager at Scottish club Celtic, James McCafferty, was jailed for six years and nine months in May after pleading guilty to 11 charges related to pedophilia against 10 victims.
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