EXCLUSIVE: Scottish football icons, Walter Smith and Graeme Souness, are alleged to have purposely failed to alert police to paedophile “super scout”, Gordon Neely, after the legendary Rangers management team became aware of sexual abuse claims against their friend while they were all at the club. Neely would then go on to abuse more boys for at least another decade. Gary Johnston reports.
When it comes to sexual abuse, football is not the only game in town.
Regular readers of True Crime News Weekly will be aware that this publication, unique amongst Australian media, has consistently reported on the issue of child sexual abuse which took place over decades at the Celtic Boys Football Club in Scotland.
That scandal is now the subject of a class action lawsuit due to be imminently heard in the highest courts in the land, a ruling which rests not with the abuse itself – it’s clear that it occurred and on a frankly terrifying scale – but whether or not football giant Celtic FC itself, the alleged senior partner of the boy’s club, was aware of it and subsequently took covert steps to cover it up.
Now, it seems, based on a document recently received by this publication, deliberate attempts to conceal the horrific sexual abuse of young burgeoning footballers has not only confined to Celtic FC but also involves their bitter crosstown, rivals, Glasgow Rangers FC.
According to our source, the abuse at Rangers concerns one Gordon Neely, the Head of Youth Development at the Ibrox club from 1986 to 1991 and a cover-up that allowed him to prey on vulnerable young boys years later.
Paedophile “super scout” Gordon Neely (Image: Supplied)
Again, Neely’s abhorrent behaviour is well documented and fully acknowledged. The Scottish Football Association’s Independent Review Into Football Abuse released in 2021 was told that Neely raped a 10-year-old while “treating his injury” and consistently used his power and influence as a coach to “intimidate and control young men in a sexually avaricious manner.”
Further, the Review conceded that ‘two senior managers’ at Rangers FC became aware of the abuse after a complaint from a parent and that Neely was removed from his position immediately.
True Crime News Weekly can now reveal that the two managers involved were football legends Graeme Souness and his then-assistant, the late Walter Smith.
Whilst it’s accepted that Neely left Rangers immediately, it transpired that at no time were police involved of the circumstances of his leaving. Thanks to the quiet departure allowed for by senior club management, Neely, who died in 2014, was then able to set up a business, become involved in local charities – including youth football – and thus continue to perpetuate abuse on children for at least another ten years.
Even more shockingly, according to a document received by True Crime News Weekly, Neely’s propensity toward sexual violence and manipulation was, to some extent it is alleged, enabled by a toxic footballing atmosphere in which young men where subjected to physical bullying and coercion in a shameful practice designed to ‘toughen them up’.
That allegation focuses on Walter Smith who, after Souness left Rangers in 1991 became manager, guiding them through one of their most successful periods in Scottish football, wining the coveted league title on no fewer than nine successive occasions.
Smith died in February this year and many tributes were paid in accordance with his footballing achievements with some ex-players, such as Ally McCoist and Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne, even recounting in positive terms Smith’s notorious “disciplinary robustness.”
According to our source, in Smith’s early coaching career at Dundee United, this ‘robustness’ included inviting young players not taking instruction, into boot rooms for a “square go” – a local Glasgwegian term for a one-on-one fight.
“If he was displeased about anything,” revealed our source, “his style was to invite you into the boot room, put out the lights and then say: ‘Let’s have a go.'”
Whilst there is absolutely no suggestion that Smith’s behaviour was ever anything other than physical in nature, it seems at the very least to be a possibility that this culture of bullying and bastardisation could allow the likes of Neely licence to exert his own particular type of harassment designed to gratify his abhorrent desires.
Indeed, Smith’s initial contact with Neely took place at Dundee United with the inference being that in such an intimidatory environment redolent of its time, at a club ruled over by its infamous martinet of manager, the fearsome Jim McLean, Neely was able to prey on vulnerable players under the dubious cover of teaching them ‘discipline’.
Dundee United Manager Jim McLean (Image: Supplied)
Incidentally, with compensation claims over Neely’s conduct during his time with United currently in the hands of solicitors, somewhat predictably, Dundee United deny Neely was ever formally employed at the club.
What’s less contentious is Neely’s subsequent position at Hibernian FC as Head of Youth Policy where, it’s alleged, his abuse of young players continued unchecked.
From Hibernian, Neely was poached by Rangers, due to his reputation as football ‘kingmaker’ and possibly also due to his previous relationship with Smith, who was then as stated above, the assistant to Graeme Souness in the so-called ‘Rangers Revolution’ which ushered in an almost unprecedented period of success.
Once more, according to our source and contemporary news reports of the time, Neely’s star was rising. Indeed, Scotland’s premier newspaper The Daily Record reported in 1986, with or presumably without, a hint of innuendo:
Alleged to be involved in abuse cover-up: Graeme Souness and Walter Smith during their time at Rangers (Image: Supplied)
To reiterate, there is absolutely no insinuation from our source that Walter Smith was personally involved in any form of sexual abuse, simply a contention that in an atmosphere of control and punitive discipline of which Smith and indeed Souness are known to have presided over, an individual like Neely could have prospered unconstrained.
To their credit, Smith and Souness, in a private meeting with Neely and the parent of young player subject to the youth coaches’ depravity, acted swiftly, removing him from his position.
However, despite claims to the contrary, the survivor himself remains adamant that police were not informed.
Backing up those claims is the official report from the SFA’s investigation of last year which stated:
“Two former senior managers at Rangers FC were apparently provided with a direct allegation (from the parents of X) concerning D’, (Neely) took the allegations seriously and followed this with reasonable steps to deal promptly with the allegations reported to them. This action was commendable. However, the Review is unable to confirm whether this was formally reported to the investigating authorities.”
A side contemporary indictment of this story is the apparent fact that the reason our source decided to relay their experience to True Crime News Weekly was a result of the Scottish media informing them that they were not interested in reporting on it, citing “abuse fatigue.” It’s a depressing catch-all term which suggests the public are only interested in the game itself and not the trauma suffered by victim survivors.
This is plainly not our view.
We at True Crime News Weekly love football too, but we respect and are concerned about human rights much, much more and any cover-up, no matter where and how it takes place, must always, in our view, be reported on with fairness and due diligence.
Otherwise, all of us – the media and the fans – are just as complicit.