Barry Bennell ‘stole or borrowed Manchester City kit for youth teams’

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Paedophile former football coach Barry Bennell has told a High Court trial that he stole or borrowed Manchester City kit for his youth teams to wear during the 1980s.

Bennell, who is in jail after being convicted of child sex offences, has denied being linked to Manchester City during the 1980s, after eight men who say he abused them made damages claims against the club.

The 67-year-old told a judge that the reason teams he coached sometimes wore City’s light blue strip was because he had taken it from the club’s training ground after trial games.

Barry Bennell damages
Convicted paedophile Barry Bennell told the court he was not employed by Manchester City at the time of the offences (PA)

The eight men, who are now in their 40s and 50s, say Bennell abused them when they were playing schoolboy football for teams he coached in north-west England between 1979 and 1985.

They claim that Bennell, who became a coach at Crewe in 1985, was a scout for City during that time, and argue that the relationship between Bennell and City was “one of employment or one akin to employment”.

City bosses deny that claim.

They say Bennell had been a local City scout in the mid-1970s but not between 1979 and 1985.

Mr Justice Johnson began overseeing a trial, at the High Court in London, in late October.

Bennell has told the trial that he was not a City scout at the time the men claim they were abused.

He has told the judge he was a “local scout” for City between 1975 and 1979 – but not between 1979 and 1985.

But he said the “reality” is that he “was never” a Manchester City coach and “after 1978/1979” junior teams he coached had “no connection at all” with the club.

Some of the men have told the judge they wore City kit when playing for Bennell’s schoolboy teams.

Barry Bennell damages
Court artist sketch of Barry Bennell appearing at the High Court in London via video-link (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Bennell, who gave evidence via video-link from the prison near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire where he is being held, said his teams had also worn Burnley and Tottenham kit.

He said he had stolen or borrowed the City kit.

“I have to admit that, on more than one occasion, I even managed to steal a bag of MCFC kit at the end of a trial that I attended,” he told the judge, in a written witness statement.

“I would then use the kit for cup finals or end-of-season photographs when the team had won the league because it made the players feel good.”

He added, when questioned on Wednesday by James Counsell QC, who is leading the eight men’s legal team: “I borrowed it … it may have been twice.”

Mr Counsell asked about the danger of City officials seeing pictures of boys wearing City kit.

Bennell replied: “I would probably blame someone else or said I had borrowed it.”

He has told the judge, in a written witness statement, that he had been convicted, at Chester Crown Court in 1998 and 2015, and at Liverpool Crown Court in 2018, of various sexual offences against “numerous boys”, and jailed.

Bennell said several of those convictions related to six of the men making claims against City.

But, when questioned by Mr Counsell earlier in trial, he denied abusing four of the men.

He admitted abusing two others.

Barry Bennell Damages
Eight men have made damages claims against Manchester City football club (Mike Egerton/PA)

Mr Justice Johnson has been told that Bennell, who used to live near Buxton in Derbyshire, had abused schoolboy footballers after inviting them to stay at his home.

The eight men are claiming damages for psychiatric injuries.

Six are also claiming damages for loss of potential football earnings.

Mr Justice Johnson has heard that Bennell is serving a 34-year sentence after being convicted of sexual offences against boys on five separate occasions – four in the UK and one in the US – and is being held at HMP Littlehey.

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