Five ex-youth players allege historic abuse at Norwich City by coach
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Five ex-youth players alleged a coach abused them while at Norwich City, according to a landmark review into historic child abuse in football.
Survivors told an investigation commissioned by the FA, called the Sheldon Review, that they were told to strip naked by youth coach Michael 'Kit' Carson and perform different poses in his office, during his time as youth coach in the 1980s.
The review, which was published on Wednesday, was commissioned in 2016 after ex-players across England spoke out about abuse they suffered by several coaches between 1970 and 2005.
The investigation, which was led by Clive Sheldon QC, found "significant institutional failings" by the FA meant it "did not do enough to keep children safe". It said there were 240 suspects and at least 692 survivors of child football abuse. A raft of recommendations were made.
Norwich City said today it had carried out an extensive investigation in light of the review and that it would study its findings. The club's actions have been described as 'adequate' in the review.
One of the suspects was Carson, who was a youth manager at Norwich City from 1983 to 1993. He then went on to join Peterborough United and Cambridge United.
In 2019, this newspaper reported for the first time that allegations had been made to police about Carson abusing boys at Norwich City.
We also revealed that Carson later had access to youth football teams abroad, despite being barred by the FA.
In January 2019, Carson, 75, was due to stand trial at Cambridge Crown Court, facing allegations of abusing 11 to 15 year old boys between 1978 and 2009. However, he killed himself on the first day of the trial by driving his car into a tree.
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At Norwich City, Mr Sheldon said he found there were rumours that Carson left the club in 1993 because he had been “messing around” with kids.
But he added there was no evidence to support those rumours at the time and Norwich City said that it was not aware of any complaint about Carson.
Mr Sheldon wrote: “I have received written accounts from five individuals in connection with abuse at Norwich City. By their accounts, the abuse consisted of Carson forcing them to sleep naked; and naked examinations where they were called individually into Carson’s office, told to strip and perform different poses.
“Carson also forced boys to run in and out of a sauna and a cold lake during a trip abroad to Finland. None of these individuals allege that the Club was aware of any of their concerns about Carson.”
Why did Carson leave Norwich?
“The circumstances surrounding Carson’s departure from Norwich in 1993 are not entirely clear,” the review found.
Norwich City said Carson resigned to join Peterborough, but when Norfolk police spoke to some ex-club members in 2007, they alleged money had gone missing from the club in connection with a youth tournament Carson used to organise each year called the Canary Cup.
Carson was interviewed by police in June 2007 and denied this, saying he left Norwich on good terms.
He said he left because the youth set-up was being re-organised and he wanted a new challenge.
But when Cambridgeshire police spoke to a Director of Youth Development at another club, he told them that Carson had been kicked out of Norwich because of his “activity with kids”, the review found.
That person told the review that it was just “very strong rumours”.
These rumours were also heard by the father of the boy who disclosed abuse in 2007 to a London club.
When interviewed by the police, the father said that he had been told that Carson had been kicked out of Norwich City for “messing around with kids”.
However, the club denied this and Mr Sheldon had not seen any other evidence showing the club knew about the abuse at the time.
On to Peterborough
Carson left and worked at Peterborough United between 1993 and 2001 where abuse allegations were made.
Allegations against Carson at Peterborough were made to a youth team manager there called Bob Higgins, who had been recruited by Carson.
However, Higgins did not share this information with anyone else, the review found, and it later emerged that he too had been abusing boys. Higgins was jailed for 24 years in 2019 for abusing boys at Peterborough and Southampton.
The report said that had Higgins shared this information “it may have been possible to bring Carson’s abuse to an end”. Instead the allegations continued up until 2009 and Carson went on to work at Cambridge United.
What does the club say?
Norwich City has carried out an extensive investigation, the report said. The club spoke to four former directors, five current directors and 13 staff members.
Mr Sheldon said the club’s investigation was “adequate”.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Norwich City said it had “fully cooperated” with the review.
They added: “Some 20 years on the club operates with clear, robust and structured safeguarding protocols, while being subject to an annual audit process by the relevant league.
“The recommendations made in the Sheldon report will now be assessed against current club processes and monitored through the club’s existing safeguarding governance framework.
“The club acknowledges how difficult reading the Sheldon report may be, particularly for the survivors and those close to them. The thoughts of all at Norwich City are very much with everyone affected by the actions of those identified in the report.”
Another Norwich link
Carson also used to organise a tournament at Norwich called the Canary Cup and survivors told the review that reports of abuse emerged after one of these tournaments.
A survivor of sexual abuse by another coach, Barry Bennell, said after one Canary Cup, several team members had told their parents about abuse by Bennell and parents had confronted Bennell.
They said: “The parents had got him in and were talking to him. I was thinking ‘This is great, finally this is the end’ and then being devastated when he talked his way out of it. I’d heard that he just sat there crying in front of the parents and saying it was a mistake and that he’d never do it again.”
Bennell was convicted in 2018 of abuse and is serving a 30-year jail term, but it was yet another missed chance to stop football’s child abusers.
The 710-page review found:
- Following high-profile convictions of child sexual abusers from the summer of 1995 until May 2000, the FA "could and should have done more to keep children safe".
- There was a significant delay by the FA in putting in place sufficient child protection measures in football at that time.
- Even after May 2000, when the FA launched a comprehensive child protection policy and programme, "mistakes were still made" by the FA.
- The FA failed to ban two of the most notorious perpetrators of child sexual abuse, Barry Bennell and Bob Higgins, from involvement in football.
- Where incidents of abuse were reported to people in authority at football clubs, their responses were "rarely competent or appropriate".
- Abuse within football was "not commonplace". The overwhelming majority of young people were able to engage in football safely.
- While several of the perpetrators knew each other, there was not evidence of a "paedophile ring" in football.
Michelle North, from the NSPCC, said: “The Sheldon Review sets outs the appalling sexual abuse suffered by numerous boys at a number of clubs over several decades. We should all be grateful for the incredible courage they have shown in speaking out, especially as for many the pain and suffering they experienced years ago still haunts their lives today."