Paedophile former football coach Barry Bennell has denied abusing a number of men who have made damages claims against Manchester City.
Eight men, who are now in their 40s and 50s, are suing the Premier League club, asserting Bennell was one of their scouts when he abused them.
Bennell, who is in jail after being convicted of child sex offences, told a High Court trial he was not linked to City when the men say they were abused.
City denies the men’s claims.
Bennell, who gave evidence via video-link from a prison near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, told the court he was a “local scout” for City between 1975 and 1979.
But he said he was not a City “coach” between 1979 and 1985, when the men say they were abused.
Bennell, who was the first witness called by lawyers representing the current Premier League champions, also said his junior teams had no connection with City.
“The reality is that I was never a MCFC [Manchester City] coach and after 1978/1979 my junior teams had no connection at all with MCFC,” he said.
Bennell said he had used his “previous connection” with City as “a draw for players to join my junior teams”.
“None of the teams they played for that I ran were in any way connected with MCFC,” he also told the judge in a written witness statement.
“However, I can entirely understand why some of the claimants may have genuinely believed they were playing for teams connected with MCFC because I was responsible for creating that belief.”
Bennell told the court he set up a local junior team called Senrab, later named Whitehill Juniors, which played in the Manchester junior football league.
The team soon attracted the attention of scouts from various professional clubs including Ken Barnes, the City chief scout at the time, he added.
Bennell said Mr Barnes “approached me and asked me to become a local scout for MCFC with a view to recommending any players l thought were good enough to him for trials at MCFC”.
He told the court between about 1975 and 1978/1979, he was provided with a scout pass by MCFC.
“I used to show these passes to the teachers or parents of players to try to persuade them to let the player join my teams as they would naturally assume that they would have a better opportunity of getting a trial at MCFC if they were playing for a team run by one of its local scouts,” he said.
Bennell said that after about four years he started to feel that he was “not getting the recognition that I believed I deserved” from City.
“I actually asked Ken Barnes for a full-time job at MCFC at one point, but I was told that I would have to wait at least two years before I would even be considered,” he said.
“I therefore decided to stop acting as a local scout for MCFC at around this time.”
In a written statement, Bennell said he was convicted at Chester Crown Court in 1998 and 2015, and at Liverpool Crown Court in 2018, of various sexual offences against “numerous boys”.
He said several of those convictions related to the six of the eight men making claims against City.
But when questioned by barrister James Counsell QC, who is leading the eight men’s legal team, he denied abusing four of the men.
Bennell maintained that, in the period from 1981 to 1984 when he returned to football coaching, he was not linked to City in any way.
He claimed he had borrowed kit from the club and would give it to boys in his teams to wear for their team photographs.
Bennell also said the boys and their parents only believed he was linked to City because he had falsely told them he was.
Mr Counsell also referred Bennell to an article about a player in a match programme from 1983, in which he was described as “City scout Barry Bennell”.
He claimed he had recommended the player to the club’s scouts at that time, but was not involved further.
Mr Counsell said: “That is what you were being referred to in 1983 by Manchester City,” to which Bennell replied: “Well I recommended him, so what else can they call me, I suppose?”
Bennell is currently 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.
The eight men say the 67-year-old abused them when they were playing schoolboy football for teams he coached in the north-west of 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 the relationship was “one of employment or one akin to employment”.
But the club said he had been a local City scout in the mid-1970s but was not employed by them between 1979 and 1985.
The eight men are claiming damages after suffering psychiatric injuries, while six are also claiming damages for loss of potential football earnings.
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