Scottish Football Association sued over abuse

Abuse victim Jon Cleland Image copyright Jon Cleland
Image caption Jon Cleland says his abuse was of the worst possible kind

A group of people who were abused as children are taking legal action against the Scottish Football Association (SFA).

They said they were abused by coaches or referees in the Scottish game.

An interim report into child protection within football, published last week, found policies in Scotland were "not fit for purpose".

SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell said, however, that Scottish football was "a safe place for children".

Janine Rennie of the survivors charity Wellbeing Scotland said: "The beginning of civil legal proceedings against the Scottish Football Association by survivors is their absolute right and is an important part of them claiming some measure of justice they have long been denied.

"Restitution of this kind is a small part of the journey for these brave people.

"They were disbelieved and ignored by the authorities for years but they are taking back control and now the SFA have admitted their terrible failings I hope they will deal with this matter with decency and transparency."

'Seeking justice'

The legal action is being pursued through Thompsons Solicitors.

Partner Patrick McGuire said: "The legal action for compensation that my firm is undertaking on behalf of our clients is part of the process of seeking justice and it's one that I expect the SFA to take very seriously and settle promptly."

Image caption Jon Cleland says he was raped by former Hibs and Rangers coach Gordon Neely when he was aged 11.

One of those pursuing the action is Jon Cleland.

"The SFA is responsible for making sure that those coaching our children are people we can trust," he said, "yet they completely failed me and my family."

He added: "I now wait to see if their words admitting their failings are backed up by action.

"I sincerely hope that other survivors abused in Scottish football now feel able to come forward to have their voices heard."

Peter Haynes, who was abused by the SFA official and coach Hugh Stevenson, said: "SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell has told the country he believes his organisation's child protection policies are a success. I have asked him to clarify his statement.

Image caption Abuse victim Pete Haynes said the SFA needed to act on the recommendations

"He has not as yet agreed to this. The hurt his statement caused to myself, my family and other survivors is beyond measure. It is in total contradiction to that of his predecessor, Stewart Regan.

"Mr Maxwell's words echoed the same lack of understanding as Jim Farry in 1994 when I first informed the SFA about Hugh Stevenson.

Image caption Ian Maxwell, the SFA's chief executive, has apologised

"How on earth can they say they haven't failed children in the past? Mr Maxwell says the SFA wants a world class child safety policy. That should begin with taking care of those it has already failed miserably."

An SFA spokesman has said: "The review group said football was safe but said that it could be safer, and we completely accept that.

"We commissioned the review because we wanted to make football better, and we knew that there were things that had to be improved.

"We have increased training for more than 12,000 people working (with children) in football and we are making sure that all our members have their processes in order."

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