Ex-football coach sent to jail for abusing boys

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A former football coach from Viewpark was branded “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” as he was jailed for four years for abusing young players.

Frank Cairney (83) managed a church team in Lanarkshire before moving on to Celtic Boys Club and was a “revered” figure, Hamilton Sheriff Court heard.

However, below the “idyllic” surface he was “an active paedophile”, said Sheriff Daniel Kelly.

In December a jury found Cairney guilty of nine charges of indecent assault and lewd behaviour between 1965 and 1986.

When Cairney returned to court for sentence, QC Thomas Ross said he continues to protest his innocence. He suggested Cairney could be spared jail.

Mr Ross told Sheriff Kelly: “These allegations represent the negative side of Mr Cairney’s character, but they are dwarfed by the positive impact he made caring for others, many of whom went on to have careers in professional football.”

As he passed sentence, Sheriff Kelly told Cairney : “Through a protracted and painful process, it has been established that you preyed on boys over an extended period.

“The tragedy is that, on the surface, it all seemed idyllic. By all accounts you were a gifted and successful football manager.

“This proved to be a sinister cover for you to use your powerful position to prey upon boys. You had a great say in which young men would progress to be taken on by Celtic FC.

“You were a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Little did the parents suspect that the revered football manager was an active paedophile.

“In a period when supervision was lax or non-existent, there was often no other adult present with you.

“It was left to the boys in the church football team to take their own steps eventually to make sure none would be left alone with you.

“It’s disturbing that when some of the boys gathered the courage to speak to other team managers the matter was not addressed.

“You were not allowed any further activity with the church team, but you were free to go to Celtic Boys’ Club - even receiving a send-off - and your behaviour continued there.”

The sheriff said while Cairney had enjoyed a long, productive life, his victims had told the court of the “profound” effect his abuse had on them.

He also put Cairney on the sex offenders register for an indefinite period.