THERE are few sportswriters who escape the rush to hyperbole when describing moments of extreme emotion that sport throws up.

Who hasn’t written of the "tragedy" of a particular result? Of the "devastation" of players after a defeat particularly hard to stomach?

When confronted with the grim reality of what tragedy looks like beyond the parameters of a football pitch, a rugby field, an athletics track, there are no words left to do justice to the emotional pain and desolation felt when hearing the true horrors of sexual abuse.


This week’s conviction of Jim McCafferty, a former kitman for Celtic, Hibernian and Falkirk, is a reminder that the current scandal has its tentacles particularly entwined with the Parkhead side because of their historic connections with Celtic Boys’ Club, and it won’t disappear any time soon. Nor should it.

First and foremost, what has come shockingly to light about the predatory nature of what was going on in the underbelly of Celtic Boys’ Club up until the mid-1990s is odious. To manipulate and exploit the dreams and ambitions of young men in order to satiate perverse sexual gratification is beyond comprehension.

Those words that are the building blocks of our trade seem inadequate to convey the magnitude and depth of how lives were irrevocably destroyed. Alcoholism and deep depression are the recurring threads that run through the stories of the victims, emotional pain that is so entrenched to appear impervious to any balm offered.

But what is equally unfathomable is the glee with which opponents of Celtic have relished this latest conviction. The depravity of the acts themselves stand alone but the gloating engendered by these tragedies is in its own way despicable. Child sex abuse as a form of one-upmanship offers a bilious impression of those who wish to point fingers.

And increasingly what is becoming lost in the noise is the voice of the victims.

There are few remnants left of the mess that Fergus McCann inherited when he took over the club in 1994 and prevented Celtic from going bankrupt. As a plc, Celtic are unrecognisable from top to bottom from those days when the Kellys and the Whites came close to running it into the ground.

But this current scandal is arguably the most visceral issue that the board have had to deal with. It’s incumbent upon the members to recognise that fact.

Legally Celtic Boys’ Club had no formal affiliation with Celtic Football Club. They were, officially, two different clubs.


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But – and it’s a big but – for the children whose lives were left broken and damaged by what they experienced, there was no such differentiation. Their accounts suggest an intricate weaving of the two clubs. The ultimate carrot waved in front of them, and their parents, was that the boys’ club provided a pathway to the Celtic first team.

That the boys’ club had regular access to Celtic Park, and its pitch rentals were said to have been paid for by Celtic, would have strengthened the belief that this was a feeder organisation for the senior side.

An 1986 Celtic View editorial was printed by a national newspaper yesterday and cast doubt on the club’s current stance that it was unaware of allegations surrounding some of the boys’ club coaching staff until the mid-90s.

In December, when disgraced former boys’ club coach Jim Torbett was convicted, Celtic paused for two days before releasing a statement. It expressed “deep regret” but did not go so far as to offer an apology; to do so would be an admission of liability ahead of potential legal action.

Their statement acknowledged Celtic’s history with Celtic Boys’ Club but reiterated the stance that there was no formal connection between the two.

It might legally be so, but there is a moral obligation to offer some compensation for those who bought into the dream that pulling on a Celtic Boys’ Club shirt would be the gateway to walking out of the Celtic tunnel one day.

There are no words adequate to offer any victim of child sexual abuse as consolation. There are no glib soundbites, no slick and clever rhetoric that can compensate for how their lives were affected by what they experienced. An acknowledgement that it has happened and an acknowledgement of their genuine distress is a step in the right direction.


Paedophile Torbett and his accomplice Frank Cairney, both coaches, have been jailed for sexual offences spanning more than 20 years. A third Celtic Boys’ Club coach, Gerald King, 66, was convicted of sexual offences against children at a school in Glasgow. Earlier this year he was given a three-year probation order.

Throughout this ordeal – and it has been a life sentence for the victims involved – Celtic have kept their distance. There may well be legal absolution over their role.

Moral absolution is not so forthcoming.