Eight men lost a court case against Manchester City on Monday after claiming that abuse they suffered from a former youth football coach took place while he was employed by the club.
The men, who are now in their 40s and 50s, claimed they were abused by Barry Bennell when they were playing youth football for teams he coached in northwest England from 1979-85. They said Bennell was a scout for City during that time and claimed the club was liable for compensation for the harm they suffered.
A judge at London’s High Court ruled against them.
“The connection between the abuse and Bennell’s relationship with (Man City) is insufficient to give rise to vicarious liability,” Mr. Justice Johnson said. “The relationship gave Bennell the opportunity to commit the abuse, but (Man City) had not entrusted the welfare of the claimants to Bennell. It follows that it has not been shown that (Man City) is legally responsible for Bennell’s acts of abuse.”
The lawyer representing the eight men, David McClenaghan, said his clients were “both shocked and dismayed” at the High Court decision.
Bennell, who is serving a 34-year prison term for sexually abusing boys, was the first witness called by lawyers representing City in the trial. He testified via video link from prison.
City said Bennell had been a local scout for the club in the mid-1970s but was not its scout from 1979-85.
Bennell said he was “never” a City coach and that junior teams he coached had no connection with City after 1978-1979. He said he had exploited his previous connections with City for his own benefit.
He also denied abusing four of the men.
The eight men were claiming damages for psychiatric injuries. Six were also claiming damages for loss of potential earnings in soccer.
Bennell was convicted of sexually abusing boys on five separate occasions — four times in Britain and once in the United States.