Aston Villa and Leicester City settle sexual-abuse claims

Ted Langford

Image caption

Ted Langford was sentenced to three years in prison, in 2007, for sexual abuse between 1976 and 1989.

Aston Villa and Leicester City have agreed to pay damages to five victims of a football scout convicted of child sex abuse, the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme has learned.

Ted Langford was jailed in 2007 for the sexual abuse of four other young boys between 1976 and 1989. He died in 2012.

Both clubs settled a civil case for compensation weeks before it was due to be heard in the High Court.

They expressed their “deepest sympathies” to the survivors.

‘No apology’

Ted Langford worked as a part-time football scout in the Midlands in the 1970s and 1980s, identifying promising players for both Aston Villa and Leicester City.

Former professional footballer Tony Brien – who says he was abused by Langford from age 12 and has waived his right to anonymity – said he felt let down neither club had accepted responsibility for the abuse or apologised to the young boys involved.

“Saying sorry won’t make things right but it would help and it would help the other four lads as well,” he said.

Image caption

Tony Brien played professionally for a number of clubs, including Leicester City, Chesterfield and Hull City. He did not play for Aston Villa.

It was Mr Brien’s interview on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme in 2017, in which he spoke of being abused while playing for a local youth team, that led four other former players to come forward alleging abuse while playing for youth teams linked to Leicester and Aston Villa.

None was involved in the criminal case against Langford.

Both clubs reached an out-of-court settlement for damages in January. The amounts involved have not been disclosed.

Image copyright
Tony Brien

Image caption

Tony Brien said he had been abused while playing for Dunlop Terriers

In 1985, four years after he says the abuse began, Mr Brien was signed for Leicester City, aged 16, by youth team manager Dave Richardson, having been recommended by Langford, a part-time scout for the club.

Two years later, Mr Richardson joined Aston Villa as assistant manager and Langford moved with him.

Later that season, Mr Brien says, he called Mr Richardson to warn him about Langford.

Image copyright
Tony Brien

Image caption

Aston Villa first-team squad photo 1988-89, featuring manager Graham Taylor (front and centre) and Dave Richardson (on his right)

But he claims that, after a number of conversations with Mr Richardson and one with then-manager Graham Taylor, he was dissuaded from going public with his allegations.

Taylor, who went on to manage England, died of a heart attack in January 2017.

Mr Brien told Victoria Derbyshire that Taylor had said to him: “Look, you’re a young lad starting out in the game. I know you’ve just made your debut. Could you really be dealing with all the obscenities from the terraces? So I just suggest you sweep it under the carpet.”

The Football Association later set up an independent inquiry into historical sexual abuse across the sport, which is continuing.

Mr Brien has told the inquiry: “They discouraged me from going forward and never offered me a chance to go to the police or anything like that.

“I went into the kitchen at my mum’s and my mum said, ‘Well?’ And I just said ‘they just told me to sweep it underneath the carpet’. And I burst into tears.”

The inquiry has also heard from a former Aston Villa player involved in the civil case who said Taylor and another unidentified member of staff had visited him and he had been discouraged from taking his abuse allegations further.

‘Alarming allegations’

Mr Richardson has previously told BBC News he could not recall having a conversation with Mr Brien and strongly denied he would have advised the player he should not go public.

He said he had first been made aware of “alarming allegations” against Langford from other parents shortly after he had joined Aston Villa, in 1987, and an internal investigation had followed.

The parents involved had not wanted the matter reported to the police and, after consulting with Taylor and then chairman Doug Ellis, Langford had been “rapidly” sacked.

Then, as now, there was no legal requirement for Mr Richardson or Aston Villa to report concerns about Langford to the authorities.

But BBC News has seen a document showing Langford was still acting as Aston Villa’s official representative until at least March 1989.

Mr Richardson said he did not consider it appropriate to comment further while the FA inquiry was continuing.

Image caption

A letter passed to the Victoria Derbyshire programme suggests Langford continued to act as Aston Villa’s official representative until at least March 1989

At least two of those who were paid damages as part of the settlement said Langford had abused them after Mr Brien, according to him, had raised concerns about the scout.

“It could have definitely been prevented if they had acted promptly,” said Mr Brien.

“I know it’s a different era we live in now. But if someone came to me and [said], ‘This is what’s happened,’ then I’d march down to the police station and make a statement.

“That’s what I would do.”

Leicester City said in a statement it wished to express “its deepest sympathies with all victims of abuse and its admiration for those survivors who, in coming forward, have helped to reinforce the game’s modern safeguarding standards”.

It added: “All reports of abuse made to the club, non-recent or otherwise, are treated seriously, investigated thoroughly and pursued to an appropriate conclusion that is satisfactory to all associated parties”.

Aston Villa said in a statement it “wishes to express its deepest sympathies with all those who have suffered abuse, and is appalled by any form of historic abuse.

“Safeguarding standards are of paramount importance to the club and any reports of abuse made to the club, both historic or current, will be investigated vigorously and reported to the appropriate authorities”.

Both clubs said the claims, settled by their respective insurers, were on terms “acceptable to all parties” and without admissions of liability.

Follow the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme on Facebook and Twitter – and see more of our stories here.

BBC News

Leave a Reply