Celtic Boys' Club founder Jim Torbett yesterday was convicted of sex offences against three young players.

A jury at Glasgow Sheriff Court found him guilty of acts of shameless indecency between 1968 and 1974.

As the verdicts were read out at the end of a seven-day trial the wealthy 51-year-old businessman hung his head in the dock and occasionally stared at the jury.

The jury, by a majority, found him guilty of indecent offences against Mr James McGrory, 44, Mr David Gordon, 38, and former Scotland footballer Alan Brazil, 39, between 1968 and 1974 when they were teenagers.

Sheriff Margaret Gimblett, who was told that Torbett, of Beaconsfield Road, Kelvindale, Glasgow was a first offender, deferred sentence until November 27 for background and community reports and continued bail.

The sheriff warned Torbett that although she was allowing bail he should not assume that when he returned for sentence he would ''retain his liberty''.

The sheriff also told him he would now be placed on the register of sex offenders.

Torbett, who lives in a #100,000 flat and who drives a Mercedes to his successful Trophy Centre business in Glasgow left court with friends refusing to comment.

Two issues dominated the trial - the evidence of the three victims and whether Celtic and manager Jock Stein were involved in a cover-up going back over 20 years.

Rumours had circulated for years about Torbett and young boys at the club - which acted as a nursery for Celtic and produced players such as Paul McStay, Charlie Nicholas, Tommy Burns. and current striker Mark Burchill.

The alleged cover-up emerged during the evidence of Mr Hugh Birt, 61, the club's photographer who resigned as president of the Boys' Club in 1986.

Mr Birt claimed that, after he became president in 1974, Celtic legend Jock Stein told him he had kicked Torbett out the door.

He said the matter was all ''covered up'' by Celtic as to why Torbett was put out.

Mr Birt said that when Torbett returned to the boys club a few years later as a fund raiser the allegations about him started up again.

He claimed he took them to Mr Stein, and told Celtic vice chairman Kevin Kelly about them but nothing was ever done.

Mr Birt said when he became president of the Celtic Boys' Club in 1974 the first thing Mr Stein said to him was to ''keep the image of Celtic clean''.

The court heard the scandal came out into the open two years ago when Mr Gordon, a taxi driver, spoke to a newspaper.

Mr McGrory broke down when he read about it, and Alan Brazil also came forward.

A picture emerged of how Torbett as coach to the under-14 and under-15 sides took boys to cafes including the Yellow Bird chip shop in Buchanan Street, Glasgow, and the city's Odeon Cinema in Renfield Street, and to his flat.

Alan Brazil spoke of his shock on his one and only visit to the flat when he saw Torbett and young players ''hugging and kissing''.

When Torbett sat next to him and pulled his hand on to his trousers and kissed him he made an excuse to go to the toilet. ''I washed my hands and said to Mr Gordon 'I'm out of here' and left.''

He said he never went near Torbett again, refused to go on outings when Torbett phoned him, but he could not say for sure if that had anything to do with Celtic not signing him as a professional.

Mr McGrory told Mr John Service, prosecuting, how Torbett started fondling him in his van and how it continued at cinemas, cafes and at the flat.

Mr McGrory said sometimes he spent the night in bed with the accused who always told him to tell his parents he was with a team mate.

Mr Gordon said Torbett had touched him indecently on one visit to the flat and made indecent suggestions to him on a second visit months later.

After the second incident he said he was so worried he pretended to have an injured knee, left the club.

There was conflicting evidence about whether Celtic and Mr Stein had engaged in a cover-up to protect the image of the club.

Mr Birt insisted allegations about Torbett had been kept hidden for 25 years.

Former Celtic directors Mr Kevin Kelly, 61, and Mr James Farrell, 77, said they never heard of any allegations concerning the accused and Mr Kelly, a director in Torbett's Trophy Centre business, denied every talking to Mr Birt about the matter.

Asked if Mr Stein had tried to cover-up any allegations Mr Farrell said: ''He would have been playing with dynamite if he had done that. Jock would never have behaved like that.''

In his evidence Torbett said he had started the club in 1966 with the good wishes of Celtic chairman Sir Robert Kelly.

He denied being ''booted out'' by Mr Stein in 1974 and said he resigned because of a ''conflict of interests''.

Torbett said he had never married because he rarely had time to build up a relationships with women but went out with them. He was not gay.

Outside court Mr Tony McGuinness, who resigned as chairman of the CBC recently said: ''My heart and sympathy goes out to the three men who had to re-live what happened to them all those years ago.

''I am very disappointed that the greatest Celt of all time, Jock Stein had to be dragged into this case unnecessarily.''