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Frank Roper and Blackpool FC: The Independent Review into Child Sexual Abuse in Football 1970 – 2005

Now that the Independent Review has concluded, it is time to take a look at what the Review said in relation to Frank Roper, a scout for Blackpool FC who abused children in his teams for two decades from at least 1965 to 1990/91.

Firstly, the Review found Roper was a prolific abuser of boys who played football, with the Review receiving more than 27 accounts of abuse by Roper.

Secondly, the Review found that Roper used his links with Blackpool FC to act as his ‘credentials’ and gain access to the boys that he would go on to abuse.  The Review found that it was clear that Roper used these links to give himself credibility and authority which in turn allowed him to manipulate young players and their parents and ultimately to commit acts of sexual abuse.

On this topic, the Review quotes significantly from the judgment given in DSN v Blackpool Football Club Ltd. [2020] EWHC 595 (QB), where this firm successfully acted in a civil claim against Blackpool Football Club on behalf of one of Roper’s victims.  The judge in that case, Mr Justice Griffiths found that:

  • Roper was a Blackpool scout;
  • Roper was very much doing the work of Blackpool FC and that his activity was part of Blackpool’s business activity; and
  • Roper was given credibility by Blackpool who lavished tickets and access on him and his protégés.

Despite the judge in DSN and the Independent Review both finding that Roper was allowed to abuse children because of his links with Blackpool, it is very disappointing that Blackpool continue to defend claims being brought against them by Roper’s victims on the basis that they have no legal responsibility for Roper.

The time has surely come for Blackpool to now hold their hands up and finally accept responsibility for Roper’s actions.

Thirdly, the Review notes that Blackpool also conducted their own investigation into the abuse by Roper, interviewing 16 people, including former members of staff and former youth players.

Yet at the trial of DSN, Blackpool only called four witnesses to give evidence.  In that case, Blackpool tried to deny legal responsibility for Roper’s actions by arguing that the case should not proceed because there was not enough evidence available to the judge.  I am therefore left wondering what these 12 other interviewees had to say to Blackpool and why Blackpool did not call them to give evidence at the trial.

If Blackpool do not publish a copy their own investigation in full, then there will surely be questions about whether they are trying to hide something.  I therefore call on them to release their own investigation findings immediately.

Lastly, under the heading “Conclusion as to What Blackpool Knew About Roper’s Abuse and What Should Have Been Done”, it is very disappointing that the Review was unable to make even a single suggestion as to what Blackpool should have done differently – despite the facts that Roper had been convicted in 1960, 1961 and 1965 for indecent assault on male children, Roper went on to abuse boys linked to Blackpool for over two decades and the club knew that Roper gave gifts and money to boys and would take young players on trips abroad.  It beggars belief that Roper would have been able to hide his disgusting behaviour from the club for such a long period if something had not been very wrong at the club.

It is also very surprising that the Review were unable to conclude that Jack Chapman, the Blackpool Youth Team Coach at that time, had knowledge of the abuse by Roper – despite the Review hearing from two witnesses who both said that they had directly told Chapman about the abuse by Roper.  One of these witnesses had already given evidence to the court in DSN where his evidence that he had reported the abuse to Chapman was accepted by the judge.  In my view, the Review has been taken an extremely meek stance in not finding being able to make a positive finding that Chapman had been told about the abuse.

Survivors of Roper’s abuse will no doubt be very disappointed by the timid inability of the Review to find that anyone at the Club knew that Roper was an abuser.  As a solicitor whose work involves representing those who were abuser by Roper, I know I am.

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