The Malta Independent 12 November 2019, Tuesday

English FA 'didn't inform' Malta FA about sex accusations against coach - George Abela

Saturday, 10 December 2016, 08:30 Last update: about 4 years ago

Former president of the Maltese football association George Abela is "angry" with the English Football Association for not warning him about sex offence allegations levelled against one of his coaches, ITV reported yesterday.

Bob Higgins, a former Southampton coach between 1985 and 1989, was taken on by the Malta FA just months after leaving the Saints amid concerns over his behaviour.

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While the Football League issued a letter to UK clubs about its fears, the Malta FA only learned of the accusations through British media reports.

The failure to inform the Malta FA left former president George Abela "angry and surprised" and he was forced to suspend Higgins.

Higgins, who was acquitted of six counts of sex offences against boys in the UK in 1992, denied the allegations and described them as "unfounded" to Dr Abela when he was confronted.

But Dr Abela decided to suspend the "popular" coach in 1990.

While Abela stepped down from his role in 1992, Higgins was re-employed by Malta the same year after being cleared at court.

"We were never notified, not even from the football authorities, from the FA, that there were these proceedings pending", Dr Abela told ITV News of the allegations.

Abela said this failure to communicate left him "angry and surprised".

Higgins eventually departed the Malta FA in 1994, going on to work at Peterborough United in the mid 1990s.

He was then employed as a manager by Bashley FC until 2001, while he also worked with Fleet Town FC until last week - when his contract was terminated.

Dr Abela, however, said the subject of Higgins' employment during his tenure as president became a "closed chapter".

"I was very clear in my mind: no more Bob Higgins. You have to be safe, rather than feeling sorry", he said.

Dr Abela told ITV News that had he still been president in 1992, he would not have given Higgins his position back at the MFA.

Under his tenure, he would never have worked in Maltese football again.

Higgins' contract with Fleet Town was terminated after the Hampshire club said he had not been vetted for the "informal and unpaid" role.

When contacted by ITV News, the FA declined to comment.

Previously, the FA has stated it intends to conduct a review into what, if anything, it and clubs knew about such allegations at the relevant time

 

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