The independent inquiry into footballs sexual-abuse scandal has heard claims that the former England manager Graham Taylor was involved in a cover-up at Aston Villa which led to other young footballers being in the care of a paedophile coach
The independent inquiry into footballs sexual-abuse scandal has heard claims that Graham Taylor, the former England manager, was involved in a cover-up at Aston Villa which led to other boys being exposed to a paedophile who was working for the club as a scout and later convicted of a string of offences over a 13-year period.
Taylor is alleged to have discouraged Tony Brien, one of Ted Langfords victims, from reporting what had happened and told him, according to evidence presented to the inquiry, that he should move on after the teenager informed Villa in the 1987-88 season that he knew from personal experience, aged 12 to 14, that boys were at risk, having been abused at a feeder club for Leicester City.
Taylor died in January this year, a hugely popular figure after his long managerial career, but the inquiry is also looking at a separate allegation relating to his first spell at Villa, from 1987 to 1990, that another of Langfords victims came forward with information that could have saved other boys from similar ordeals.
As well as evidence from Brien, the barrister in charge of the inquiry, Clive Sheldon QC has heard a claim that one boy told Villa what had happened and Taylor subsequently visited him at home with another member of staff. The allegation, again, is that Taylor discouraged the boy from taking it further.
In Briens case, he alleges that Taylor spoke to him on the telephone and told him that if the story reached the newspapers it would make the player, then at the start of his professional career, a target for terrace taunts. Taylor, Brien says, asked him to imagine what it would be like hearing the crowds obscenities every week. Brien, who was 18 and had just broken into Leicesters first team, claims the message was, Can you really be doing with the abuse from the terraces?
The police were never informed and new evidence shows Langford, previously a scout for Leicester, continued working for Villa until the summer of 1989, raising questions for one of Englands biggest clubs about what they knew, what they did about it and how many boys potentially suffered as a result.
The Guardian has seen a letter on Villa-headed notepaper that has Dave Richardson, then the clubs assistant manager, inviting one boy to a four-day training course in March 1989 and explaining that exact arrangements will be given by our representative Mr T Langford. The boy in question has reported he was abused by Langford from 1987 to 1989, including at Villas training ground.
Richardson, who went on to have key roles in youth development for the Football Association and the Premier League, has chosen not to comment while the inquiry is ongoing but has clearly stated on previous occasions, including a statement issued by his lawyers, that the club were first warned in 1987, leading to an internal investigation and Langfords sacking.
Yet other official papers, also seen by this newspaper, show that Langford continued to be paid for up to two years after that point. Langford, a part-time scout in the clubs youth set-up, was paid throughout the entire 1987-88 and 1988-89 seasons. His final payment came in June 1989 when he was sacked in the wake of other allegations that Villa did not report to the police or the FA.
Langford, a binman in his ordinary job, continued to work in youth football in the Birmingham area and when he was finally convicted in 2007 the offences related to four boys from 1976 to 1989. Langford admitted three charges of indecent assault and four of gross indecency and was sentenced to three years in prison.
A decade later, his involvement at Villa is one of the cases being investigated under point five in the inquirys terms of reference, namely to examine what that club did or did not know and/or did or did not do in relation to child sexual abuse. Sheldon intends to interview Richardson and the findings are expected next year.
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