Celtic Boys Club manager touched youth’s private parts, court hears

A Celtic Boys Club manager touched a 15-year-old’s private parts in a shower room at Celtic Park when the teenager was feeling upset after a game, a court has heard.

The alleged victim, now aged 52, said he initially thought Francis Cairney was giving him a consoling hug because he was homesick, but was “shocked” when the manager touched him inappropriately.

The 87-year-old is charged with indecently assaulting one boy in the late 1970s and another in the 1980s at football facilities, and a third boy in a hotel room in Aviemore and a car in Cumbernauld.

Cairney, who has dementia, has been found unfit to stand trial for medical reasons and instead an examination of facts hearing is taking place at Glasgow Sheriff Court.

Glasgow Sheriff Court
The hearing is taking place at Glasgow Sheriff Court (Jane Barlow/PA)

He maintains his plea of not guilty to the charges and has been excused from attending the hearing.

It is alleged that Cairney indecently assaulted a boy then aged between 15 and 18 in the dressing room at Barrowfield training ground and at Celtic Park football ground in Glasgow on various occasions between February 1986 and December 1988.

Giving evidence on Monday, the 52-year-old man said he was contracted to Celtic as a teenager and encountered Cairney when, as part of that, he played for the Celtic Boys Club under-16s of which Cairney was manager.

He said that on one occasion, after a match at Celtic Park in 1986, he was feeling homesick as he had just returned from his family home abroad to live in Glasgow, and went into the shower room of the dressing room as he was feeling upset.

The witness said that Cairney came into the room and asked how he was.

Prosecutor Mark Allan asked what happened next.

The man replied: “Francis Cairney put his hands around me in a consoling way I thought at the time.

“He was holding me and then he put his hand round my lower back. His hand was on top of the side of my leg.

“He moved that hand inside and touched my private parts and my lower stomach.”

He added: “I was still in my football kit.”

Asked by Mr Allan how he felt at the time, he replied: “I was obviously shocked. I think I was still so sad at having to come back I don’t think I really comprehended what happened.”

He said that when he first encountered Cairney, earlier in 1986, he thought he was “loud, a bit of a bully”, and said: “He was very physical towards players, he would be very verbal, aggressive.”

The witness also told the court about another incident, later in 1986 or early 1987, when he said Cairney touched him inappropriately in the dressing room at Barrowfield.

He said: “He sat down beside me and hugged me once again and he put his hand inside my leg, similar to the first occasion, and he would have rubbed my neck and he would have moved his hand inside my football gear again and touched my private parts. It was longer that time.”

The witness said that in both the incident at Barrowfield and at Celtic Park, Cairney touched him under his clothing.

He also told the court about an incident at Celtic Park, later in the 1986 to 1988 time frame, when he said the now 87-year-old hugged him and touched the inside of his leg.

Asked about the impact of the incidents, he said: “For many years, I didn’t tell my family. I didn’t get any help really but I tried to keep playing the best I could. But I’ve never really fulfilled what I thought I should have really.”

It is also alleged that Cairney, from Uddingston, South Lanarkshire, indecently assaulted a different boy aged between 15 and 16 in a car in Paisley and in the dressing rooms at Barrowfield training ground, Celtic’s former training ground in Glasgow, on various occasions between July 1978 and June 1979.

He is also accused of assaulting the boy by punching and slapping him in the dressing room at Barrowfield between those dates.

The fourth charge alleges he indecently assaulted a boy aged between 15 and 16 at a hotel room in Aviemore and a car in Cumbernauld on various occasions between August 1988 and June 1989.

Defending Cairney, advocate Andrew Crosbie asked the witness why he did not report the alleged incidents. The witness replied: “I wasn’t sure if I would be believed.”

But Mr Crosbie asked him if he did not report the incidents because they “simply did not happen”.

The witness responded: “That is not correct.”

Mr Crosbie also asked if it could have been the case that Cairney touched his leg accidentally and that when he allegedly embraced him in the shower area at Barrowfield in the late 1980s, it was intended as a gesture of support.

“That is not correct,” the witness said.

The witness told the court he had reported the alleged incidents on two occasions, once to a member of Celtic staff who worked in Ireland and secondly, when he returned to Scotland when the season resumed.

Mr Crosbie asked: “Did anything come of that?”

The witness said it had not and that he was “disappointed” at the club’s lack of response.

The hearing, before Sheriff Tom Hughes, continues.