Ex-Scout for British Soccer Teams Convicted of Molesting Child Players


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Barry Bennell in a Florida courtroom in 1995. On Tuesday, Mr. Bennell was convicted of sexually assaulting boys in Britain from 1979 to 1990.

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Will Dickey/The Florida Times-Union, via Associated Press

In a child sex abuse scandal that has rocked English soccer, a former youth coach and talent scout who worked for a number of well-known teams was convicted on Tuesday of 36 counts of sexually assaulting boys aged 8 to 15, from 1979 to 1990.

The case against the former coach, Barry Bennell, began in late 2016, when Andrew Woodward became the first professional player to say publicly that he had been molested by a coach, accusing Mr. Bennell. But the scandal widened again and again, as a number of other allegations were made against Mr. Bennell, and then against other well-known coaches and scouts, until the people stepping forward to say they had been victimized numbered in the hundreds, including dozens of former professionals.

Soccer has taken its place among the institutions tarnished by the disclosure of systematic sexual exploitation, including the Roman Catholic Church, the news media and Hollywood. In Britain, the case of Mr. Bennell came after revelations that Jimmy Savile, a longtime host of BBC television shows who died in 2011, had molested dozens of children.

From the late 1970s to the early 1990s, Mr. Bennell, now 64, worked for several well-known professional teams — including one, Manchester City, that plays in the upper echelon of the game — as a scout and sometime coach for youth programs. The work gave him access to boys who lived for periods of time away from their parents.

Prosecutors said that he equipped his home with video games, exotic animals and fast food to make it attractive to boys, and that he abused them there and in his car.

Twice in the 1990s and again in 2015, Mr. Bennell — who has changed his name to Richard Jones — was convicted of multiple counts of sexually abusing youth players and sent to prison. The latest revelations were surprising less in that additional long-ago victims might be found than in the numbers and prominence of some of them.

The jury in Liverpool Crown Court on Tuesday found him not guilty of three charges, and they will continue deliberating on seven others.

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