Former Celtic Boys Club coach, 83, jailed for four years for sexually abusing young footballers

Frank Cairney, 83, has been jailed for four years after being found guilty of historic sexual abuse

A former manager of Celtic Boys Club who sexually abused a string of teenagers has been jailed for four years.

Frank Cairney, 83, abused eight boys while running St Columba’s Boys Guild in Viewpark, Lanarkshire, and the under-16 team at Celtic Boys Club.

Cairney joined Celtic in 1971 after being asked to run the youth side by legendary manager Jock Stein.

But he used his position of power to assault youngsters in a church hall, in his car and at Celtic’s Barrowfield training ground.

Cairney had denied nine charges of historic sexual abuse from 1965 to 1986 but was convicted at Hamilton Sheriff Court following a trial.

He has now been jailed by Sheriff Daniel Kelly QC who branded him a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’.

Depute fiscal Paula Russell told jurors: ‘Frank Cairney was the gatekeeper to bigger and better things.

‘He took you on, he had people on his side in a position of power and when you went there he was very nice and a trusted member of the community, a football coach extraordinaire.

‘With the position of power that offered, these boys didn’t speak out about what happened to them because who would believe that about big Frank?

‘This is not about religion or the name of the club above the door but about a man who used his position of power to abuse boys in his care.’

Cairney had dismissed the claims against him as ‘ludicrous’ and told the jury his time as a coach was full of ‘golden memories’.

At Hamilton Sheriff Court (pictured), Sheriff Kelly put Cairney on the sex offenders' register indefinitely

At Hamilton Sheriff Court (pictured), Sheriff Kelly put Cairney on the sex offenders’ register indefinitely

He said: ‘I wish I knew why the boys were saying this, it is a total shock after 50 years to hear they would say that.

‘I don’t know why they are making these allegations because I was really friendly with them, some went to America with me so I have no idea why they are making these allegations.’ 

Sheriff Kelly put Cairney on the sex offenders’ register indefinitely.

He said: ‘The tragedy is that everything seemed idyllic and by accounts you were a good and successful football manager. 

‘You organised a church team and then went on the Celtic Boys Club and this proved to be the cover for you to use you prey upon boys.

‘You were trusted in the church community and at Celtic Boys Club and you had a great say in which boys would progress to Celtic FC but what parents of these children did not know is that you were a wolf in sheep’s clothing who used football to conceal that you were an active paedophile.

‘When supervision was lax and when there were no other adults present with you it was left to the boys to protect each other while receiving treatment from you.’

The sheriff added: ‘It is disturbing that when some of the boys did have the courage to speak the matter was addressed by you not having any involvement in the church team and you were free to move to Celtic Boys Club and even received a send off.

‘You have shown no remorse or empathy, continuing to peddle your version of events and present the facade.

‘The evidence against you was clear and there is no alternative to a custodial sentence.’

Speaking outside court, a family member of one of the victims said: ‘We have waited almost 50 years for Frank Cairney to be punished for what he did.

Jim Torbett (pictured left) and Frank Cairney (right) have both now been convicted of abusing children at Celtic Boys Club

Jim Torbett (pictured left) and Frank Cairney (right) have both now been convicted of abusing children at Celtic Boys Club

‘He abused his position and caused a great deal of harm to so many people, it is outrageous that he won’t admit what he has done and still claims he is an innocent man.’

Cairney is the third member of Celtic Boys Club to have been convicted to child sexual abuse after Jim Torbett and Gerald King.

Torbett was caged for six years while King, who abused children while working in a Glasgow school, was given 240 hours unpaid work and told he would be supervised for three years. 

Thomas Ross QC, defending, said Cairney still insisted he was innocent. 

Cairney abused one 14-year-old boy on various occasions at the Barrowfield ground as well as other locations in Glasgow and Lanarkshire between September 1969 and December 1972.

He also indecently assaulted another 15-year-old boy at the training ground between January 1985 and December 1986.

He assaulted two other boys aged between 14 and 17 at various Lanarkshire locations including a church between May 1965 and May 1970.

And he was convicted of alleged lewd, indecent and libidinous behaviour against two 12-year-old boys between December 1965 and December 1968 in Lanarkshire.