Higgins, regarded as a “godlike” star-maker by youngsters who dreamed of a career in football, was able to operate “seemingly undetected” at Southampton from the mid-1970s until the late 1980s and continued to work elsewhere in the sport until 2016.
The report concluded: “It is an unavoidable fact that adults in Southampton Football Club during the time Higgins worked for them or on their behalf did not consider the welfare and wellbeing of the boys involved with the club as their prime consideration.
“The impact of and damage caused by Higgins’ abuse of children in his care during the time he was employed by Southampton Football Club is incalculable. It is these individuals who, in our view, have paid the price for what seems to be the inertia of board members who failed to ensure that young boy were as well protected as they should have been.
“We do not believe there was any deliberation or malign intent by these individuals, it is our view they simply did not consider the wellbeing of boys as their responsibility .”
Higgins was jailed in 2019 for 24 years for sexually abusing 24 boys over a 25-year period from 1971, but the report said that more than 100 individuals ha d come forward to testify to Higgins’ abuse.
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