Further to our previous statement, dated 23rd May, Southampton Football Club would like to offer an unreserved apology to all victims and survivors of abuse by our former employee, Bob Higgins.
We recognise that some of the boys under our care suffered exposure to abuse when they should have received protection from any form of harm. For this, the club is deeply sorry.
Since the club was notified of the allegations against Bob Higgins in 2016, we have worked closely with the police, the FA and the Sheldon review. We have provided our full assistance with all enquires made to the club, including identifying possible witnesses.
During their investigation and the subsequent trials, the police provided very clear instructions to the club, telling us not to contact any victims or potential witnesses as this could have adversely impacted those trials. This included instructions to us not to make any public statement in relation to the ongoing criminal process. This means that we are unable to contact any victims and survivors until the sentences from the criminal trial have been delivered and the police have confirmed that they no longer have any objections.
We recognise this lack of contact may have caused some anger and further distrust among the victims and survivors, but this approach has been absolutely necessary to ensure a fair trial. Following the completion of the current criminal trials, the club is continuing to work with the police. We can confirm that we will start consulting with victims and survivors individually once the police have confirmed that it is acceptable for us to do so.
Now that the ongoing criminal trials have been completed, we are able to extend our own investigation. This will include working with Barnardo’s, as an independent organisation, to undertake a full review. This review will allow us to fully understand and learn from what happened at the club in the past. The scope and terms of reference of this investigation will also fully address all information and reporting requests made to the club by the Sheldon review.
As part of our work to understand the impact of the historic abuse and how we might be able to support victims and survivors of that abuse, the club has started to investigate ways that we might be able to start to work collaboratively with appropriate external organisations. For us, this is an important step that will allow us to start to engage with the victims and survivors and offer our support in the most effective way possible.
We also recognise that the victims and survivors of abuse from Bob Higgins may wish to look at further legal recourse. Any victims and survivors considering this course of action are encouraged to contact the police or The Association of Child Abuse Lawyers.
Any victims and survivors, or members of their immediate families, who wish to contact the club directly about any matters referenced above may do so at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any contact with the club will be treated sensitively and in the strictest confidence.
This statement is the first part of the club’s ongoing commitment to collaborate with the victims and survivors of abuse effectively. Where that is no longer possible we will make every effort to engage with their families should they wish to do so. It is important for the club to rebuild relationships with those who suffered abuse while under our care in the past. We realise that it will take a significant amount of time and consultation with the victims and survivors to start to rebuild these relationships. However, we hope that over time we will be able to provide the support, understanding and tangible action to help each of them.