Gra­ham Tay­lor ac­cused of role in sex abuse cover-up

For­mer Eng­land coach ‘failed to re­port pae­dophile’ Vic­tim told to ‘move on’ and did not con­tact po­lice Claims come to light as foot­ball inquiry con­tin­ues

The Guardian - - FRONT PAGE - Daniel Tay­lor

The in­de­pen­dent inquiry into foot­ball’s sex­ual abuse scan­dal has heard claims that the for­mer Eng­land man­ager Gra­ham Tay­lor was in­volved in a cover-up at As­ton Villa that led to boys be­ing ex­posed to a pae­dophile who was work­ing for the club as a scout and later con­victed of of­fences over a 13-year pe­riod.

Tay­lor is al­leged to have dis­cour­aged Tony Brien, one of Ted Lang­ford’s 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 his per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence that boys were at risk, hav­ing been abused at a feeder club for Le­ices­ter City when he was 12 to 14, in the early 1980s.

Tay­lor died in Jan­uary this year, revered and hugely pop­u­lar af­ter his long man­age­rial ca­reer.

The inquiry is also look­ing at a sep­a­rate al­le­ga­tion, re­lat­ing to his first spell at Villa, from 1987 to 1990, that an­other of Lang­ford’s 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 Brien’s case, he al­leges Tay­lor spoke to him on the tele­phone and told him that if the story reached the news­pa­pers it would make the player, who had just bro­ken into Le­ices­ter’s first team, a tar­get for ter­race taunts. Tay­lor, Brien says, asked him to imag­ine what it would be like hear­ing the crowd’s ob­scen­i­ties every week. Brien, who was 18, 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 sum­mer 1989, rais­ing ques­tions for the club about what they knew, what they did about it and how many boys po­ten­tially suf­fered as a re­sult.

The Guardian has seen one let­ter on Villa-headed notepa­per that has Dave Richard­son, then the club’s as­sis­tant man­ager, invit­ing one boy to a four­day 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 Villa’s train­ing ground.

Richard­son, who went on to have key roles in youth de­vel­op­ment for the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion and 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 Lang­ford’s sack­ing. Yet other of­fi­cial pa­pers, also seen by this news­pa­per, show Lang­ford con­tin­ued to be paid for up to two years af­ter that point. Lang­ford, a part-time scout in the club’s youth set-up, was paid through 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 ei­ther the po­lice or the FA.

Lang­ford, who was also a refuse col­lec­tor, 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. He ad­mit­ted three charges of in­de­cent as­sault and four of gross in­de­cency and was sen­tenced to three years in prison.

A decade later, Lang­ford’s in­volve­ment at Villa is one of the cases be­ing in­ves­ti­gated un­der point five in the inquiry’s 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.

Brien played for Le­ices­ter, Ch­ester­field, Rother­ham United, West Bromwich Al­bion and Hull City in an 11-year pro­fes­sional ca­reer and waived his anonymity af­ter a Guardian in­ter­view with the for­mer Crewe Alexan­dra foot­baller Andy Wood­ward last Novem­ber opened up what the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion chair­man, Greg Clarke, has called a “tidal wave”. The last po­lice fig­ures, from 30 June, showed 741 al­leged vic­tims had come for­ward and 276 sus­pects had been iden­ti­fied. Op­er­a­tion Hy­drant, the po­lice unit in charge of the op­er­a­tion, had re­ceived 1,886 re­fer­rals and a num­ber of court cases in­volv­ing pro­fes­sional clubs are un­der way.

Lang­ford was 66 when he ap­peared at Birm­ing­ham crown court in 2007 and was de­scribed by the judge as some­one who “held the keys” to boys’ dreams, mo­lest­ing young­sters who “would have been in awe of you, un­able to quar­rel with you or re­ject your ad­vances” from a team, Dun­lop Ter­ri­ers, which was a feeder club for Villa and, pre­vi­ously, Le­ices­ter.

All the vic­tims suf­fered psy­cho­log­i­cal dam­age, the court was told, in­clud­ing one who took an over­dose that left him in hos­pi­tal. Lang­ford’s lawyer said his client re­garded the boys as “easy vic­tims” be­cause of their dreams to be­come pro­fes­sional foot­ballers. Brien, who was not in­volved in the crim­i­nal case, went to the po­lice last De­cem­ber only to dis­cover that Lang­ford had died in 2012.

His po­lice state­ment was passed to the FA and, in an in­ter­view with the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s se­nior case of­fi­cer, David Greg­son, in March he also re­called Dun­lop Ter­ri­ers go­ing on ex­change trips to Swe­den and Den­mark – play­ing in Le­ices­ter’s kit – when Lang­ford would share a bunk bed with dif­fer­ent boys on the ferry.

A lot of boys, Brien said, would play those games with love bites on their necks. In his later ev­i­dence to the inquiry, he was asked to de­scribe Lang­ford and talked of him be­ing “al­ways in track­suit bot­toms, lit­tle goa­tee beard, yel­low fin­gers from smok­ing his Park Drive and small hands”.

Lang­ford was the man­ager of Dun­lop Ter­ri­ers, which was based in Birm­ing­ham, and Brien was there when it had links with Le­ices­ter, where Richard­son was youthteam man­ager from 1980 to 1987.

Brien was even­tu­ally taken on by Le­ices­ter but, at the age of 12, Lang­ford told him that if he wanted to make it as a foot­baller he needed to show the club’s doc­tors he had a spe­cial gene that could be found only in sperm. Lang­ford would then drive him to the Hill­top golf course in Birm­ing­ham, close to Brien’s school, and abuse him in his red Ford Granada.

Giv­ing ev­i­dence to the inquiry on 10 Au­gust, Brien said he be­came strong enough, at 14, to warn Lang­ford off and, des­per­ate to cleanse him­self from “a dirty feel­ing I couldn’t get rid of”, sum­moned up the courage to re­port him when Richard­son left Le­ices­ter to join Villa four years later. Lang­ford moved with Richard­son at the same time, with Dun­lop Ter­ri­ers also switch­ing al­le­giances, and Brien said he knew other boys would be at risk. “Dave Richard­son brought me to Le­ices­ter City. I felt as though he was the only one I could re­ally tell be­cause he had that man work­ing for him as well. I wanted to do some­thing to stop it hap­pen­ing again.”

Ac­cord­ing to Brien, now 48, there were a num­ber of tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions in the fol­low­ing weeks and then Richard­son al­legedly rang him to say the club had de­cided what to do, telling him: “You’re a good player – sweep it un­der the car­pet, son, move on.” Tay­lor was then said to take the phone and re­peat the same.

“They dis­cour­aged me from go­ing for­ward and never of­fered me a chance to go to the po­lice or any­thing like that,” Brien said, an­swer­ing ques­tions from Shel­don and a sec­ond bar­ris­ter, David Be­den­ham. “We used to look up to Dave Richard­son as though he was a fa­ther fig­ure. I’ve still got a lot of ad­mi­ra­tion for Dave Richard­son, [for] what he did for me when I was a young man be­ing coached. I thought he was a bril­liant coach. But when I thought I was do­ing the right thing by re­port­ing it to some­body who I trusted I felt let down and I didn’t know what to do.

“I was an 18-year-old child – well, child, man, what­ever you want to call it – and you just don’t know what to do next. You’ve ac­tu­ally gone for­ward and told some­body, but they’ve just said: ‘Well, yeah ...’ They’re like: ‘What­ever …’ and you’re in shock.”

When Richard­son was in­ter­viewed on two sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions by the BBC in Jan­uary he ap­peared to re­mem­ber Brien telling him about Lang­ford and said he had al­ready re­ceived other warn­ings, prompt­ing him to start an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that was “dealt with fairly rapidly ... as soon as we got more in­for­ma­tion, as soon as I knew, we brought him [Lang­ford] in and we got him out of the way”.

Richard­son added that he did ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to help his play­ers and it was “to­tally wrong” to say he had tried to smooth it over. “The bot­tom line is once he’d rung me [I would have said]: ‘We’re deal­ing with it, it will be dealt with in such a way whereby you don’t have to worry.’ I would have told him: ‘Leave it with me and we’ll deal with it.’ I wouldn’t brush it un­der the car­pet, oth­er­wise I wouldn’t have sacked him [Lang­ford].”

In a state­ment is­sued by his lawyers, Richard­son then said he could not re­call any con­ver­sa­tion with Brien and that he had launched the in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, re­sult­ing in Lang­ford’s sack­ing, af­ter “alarm­ing al­le­ga­tions” from an­other mem­ber of staff dur­ing pre-sea­son of 1987.

“I took these ex­tremely se­ri­ously and be­gan mak­ing in­quiries. These led me to speak to the par­ents of two young foot­ballers at As­ton Villa who each told me their sons had been abused by Ted

‘I thought I was do­ing the right thing by re­port­ing it. I felt let down and didn’t know what to do’

Lang­ford. I asked them if they were go­ing to re­port the al­le­ga­tions to the po­lice or if they wanted me to. Af­ter con­sult­ing with each other, both sets of par­ents told me that they did not want the mat­ter re­ported to the po­lice.

“I re­spected that re­quest and, there­fore, in­stead I re­ported the al­le­ga­tions to Gra­ham Tay­lor, Doug El­lis and Steve Stride [re­spec­tively the man­ager, chair­man and sec­re­tary of As­ton Villa] with my rec­om­men­da­tion that Ted Lang­ford be dis­missed. This was ac­cepted and Mr Lang­ford was duly sacked by the club.

“In the late 1980s re­gret­tably there were not the safe­guard­ing pro­ce­dures and pro­tec­tions which ex­ist to­day. Since the par­ents of the two young foot­ballers at As­ton Villa had not wanted the al­le­ga­tions re­ported to the po­lice, I did noth­ing fur­ther once Mr Lang­ford had been dis­missed and in­deed heard noth­ing more about him un­til I was told in Novem­ber 2016 that he had been im­pris­oned for abuse of­fences and sub­se­quently had died.”

Tay­lor be­came Eng­land man­ager in 1990 and, though his time was not a suc­cess, he had be­come some­thing of a na­tional trea­sure by the time he died, aged 72. He was awarded an OBE in 2001 and his man­age­rial ca­reer also in­cluded two pe­ri­ods in charge at Watford, where a stand is named af­ter him, plus spells at Lin­coln City and Wolver­hamp­ton Wan­der­ers. Tay­lor’s fam­ily and for­mer rep­re­sen­ta­tives have been made aware about what the inquiry has heard.

Richard­son, a for­mer teacher and non­league player, be­gan his coach­ing ca­reer with Mid­dles­brough’s school­boys in 1966. Af­ter his spells at Le­ices­ter and Villa, he be­came di­rec­tor of youth at the Pre­mier League and was later ap­pointed chair­man of the Pro­fes­sional Foot­ball Coaches’ As­so­ci­a­tion, whose web­site cred­its him for hav­ing “worked closely with the then FA tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor, Howard Wilkin­son, to es­tab­lish the cur­rent acad­emy sys­tem in pro­fes­sional foot­ball”.

El­lis, who was also once prom­i­nent within the FA as well as be­ing on var­i­ous com­mit­tees for Fifa and the Pre­mier League, stepped down at Villa in 2006 af­ter a £62.6m takeover. Now 93, he is abroad and un­avail­able for comment but has said in the past that he re­mem­bered al­le­ga­tions of a child abuser but could not re­call any dis­cus­sion about whether the po­lice should be in­formed. Then, as now, there was no legal re­quire­ment to re­port Lang­ford to the au­thor­i­ties.

Villa say they can­not comment on spe­cific al­le­ga­tions in­volv­ing Lang­ford be­cause of “on­go­ing legal pro­ceed­ings”. A state­ment said: “The club has co-op­er­ated fully with the FA in­ves­ti­ga­tion and takes the safe­guard­ing and wel­fare of all play­ers and staff very se­ri­ously and con­sid­ers it to be of para­mount im­por­tance. The club now has ro­bust safe­guard­ing po­lices and pro­ce­dures in place to deal with any new and his­toric com­plaints raised.”

Le­ices­ter also re­leased a state­ment say­ing the club had “no in­di­ca­tion of any cur­rent or his­toric al­le­ga­tions made against or in re­la­tion to [its] em­ploy­ees. We would, of course, in­ves­ti­gate fully in the event any in­for­ma­tion comes to light.”

Brien, whose ca­reer also in­cluded loan spells at Mans­field Town and Ch­ester City, gave a full ac­count of his story to the po­lice in De­cem­ber but told the inquiry he opted against nam­ing Tay­lor dur­ing an ap­pear­ance on the Vic­to­ria Der­byshire Show on 30 Jan­uary be­cause the fu­neral was two days later. “No mat­ter how much has hap­pened to me, he’s still got a fam­ily and what­ever you call it – re­spect, dig­nity, I don’t know – I just said: ‘This is not the right time to be [men­tion­ing him].’”

Pho­to­graph: Dave Mun­den/EMPICS Sport

Gra­ham Tay­lor is al­leged to have been in­volved in a cover-up while at As­ton Villa

Pho­to­graph: Andy Hall for the Guardian

Tony Brien, now 48, told how he was abused by a pae­dophile coach, Ted Lang­ford, in the 1980s

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