LONDON (AP) — A former soccer coach serving a 34-year prison term for sexually abusing boys has denied being linked to Manchester City during the 1980s after eight men who say he abused them made claims for damages against the Premier League club.
Barry Bennell, testifying via video link to the High Court in London on Tuesday, told a judge he was not a City scout at the time the men claim they were abused. He also denied abusing four of the men.
The eight men, who are now in their 40s and 50s, have accused Bennell of abusing them when they were playing youth soccer for teams he coached in the northwest of England from 1979-85. They have claimed that Bennell, who became a coach at Crewe in 1985, was a scout for City during that time and that the relationship between Bennell and City was “one of employment or one akin to employment.”
City denies that claim. The club says Bennell had been a local City scout in the mid-1970s but was not a City scout from 1979-85.
Bennell was the first witness called by lawyers representing City in the trial.
He said he had been a “local scout” for City from 1975-79, but not from 1979-85. But he said the “reality” was that he “was never” a City coach and that junior teams he coached had no connection with City after 1978-1979.
Bennell said he had “always used and exploited” his previous connections with City for his “own benefit.”
The eight men are claiming damages for psychiatric injuries. Six are also claiming damages for loss of potential earnings in soccer.
Bennell, the court heard, was convicted of sexually abusing boys on five separate occasions — four times in Britain and once in the United States.
Bennell is due to conclude his evidence on Wednesday.
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The Associated Press