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Graham Taylor ‘covered up’ historic abuse at Aston Villa

Dark news arrives today - as reports declare that Graham Taylor helped cover up sexual abuse at Aston Villa

Aston Villa v Watford - Pre Season Friendly Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images

An inquiry into historic abuse in football has heard that former Aston Villa manager Graham Taylor allegedly helped cover-up sexual abuse at the club, according to a report in the Guardian.

Taylor, who died in January, is claimed to have discouraged victims from reporting the actions of former Villa scout Ted Langford, during the manager's time at the club from 1987-1990. The claims suggest Taylor both phoned and visited victims at home to discourage them from reporting the issue.

The newspaper reports the club was made aware of the abuse during 1987-88 season, with Langford working at Aston Villa until the summer of 1989 – potentially meaning the club participated in a cover-up which left other victims vulnerable. Langford was convicted in 2007 for a number of sexual offences committed against young boys during the period from 1976-1989. He died in 2012.

The claims also suggest former Villa assistant manager Dave Richardson failed to report the abuse to the police. Richardson said in a statement that parents of the victims did not wish to take the matter to the police, and that the club acted on his recommendation that Langford be sacked.

In a statement to the Guardian, Aston Villa said it could not comment specifically on Langford due to legal proceedings, but added “The club has co-operated fully with the ongoing FA investigation and takes the safeguarding and welfare of all players and staff very seriously and considers it to be of paramount importance. The club now has robust safeguarding polices and procedures in place to deal with any new and historic complaints raised.”

These are serious allegations against the club, and key authority figures – including Taylor himself, who we paid tribute to this year as one of our greatest managers, including on 7500toHolte.

It is very important to be clear that no verdict has yet been made about these claims by the inquiry into sexual abuse in football. But it is just as important to not rush to defend the club, or one of its heroes, and in doing so deny or downplay the experiences of victims of horrific abuse.

It has become horrifically clear that the footballing world as a whole failed to protect many young boys who were placed under the care of sexual predators. If that failure was compounded at Aston Villa by an attempt to cover-up abuse, both the club and any individuals involved carry a share of the guilt.

When legally possible, the club must address the claims and the victims in an honest manner, without seeking to evade or excuse itself. It is the least the victims deserve.