Aston Villa youth coach Kevin MacDonald has left the club “with immediate effect” after an investigation into allegations of bullying made by a number of former players was concluded.
MacDonald had two spells at Villa over a 25-year period working as a youth and reserve team coach. The former Liverpool player was also caretaker manager on two occasions, most recently last season after the sacking of Steve Bruce.
Following the Premier League’s decision to uphold a bullying complaint against the 58-year-old made by a player and his father in 2017, MacDonald was reassigned to head of football development, removing him from contact with players, until this week.
An investigation was ordered by the club’s chief executive Christian Purslow after former player Gareth Farrelly’s comments during an interview with the Guardian in December.
Farrelly was provoked into speaking out after he felt “incredulous” that MacDonald was allowed to remain in a coaching position following the allegations in 2017. The 43-year-old said there was “a culture of verbal and physical bullying” in the Villa youth team that sent the youngster to some “extremely dark places” during his interview in December.
Following the article, a number of other former youth players came forward with similar allegations prompting a full investigation led by independent barrister Jack Mitchell.
In a statement made yesterday, quotes carried by the Guardian, Villa said: “Aston Villa can confirm Kevin MacDonald has left his position as head of football development with immediate effect. Mr MacDonald had been reallocated to non-player facing duties pending completion of an independent investigation into allegations published in The Guardian in December 2018 about his past conduct.
“That investigation carried out by barrister Jack Mitchell has now concluded and the results delivered to the board. As the report forms part of an employee disciplinary process, the club is unable to provide details in public, although copies of Mr Mitchell’s investigation have been provided to the FA, Premier League and statutory authorities.
“Mr Mitchell appealed for individuals to come forward to give evidence and we are especially grateful to those former players who assisted him in his investigation. Aston Villa wishes to apologise to all former players who were affected by behaviour which would not be tolerated by the club today. Our approach to safeguarding is now unrecognisable from the past and has been described as excellent in recent EFL and Ofsted audits. The club will now begin a search for his successor.”
Upon hearing the verdict, Farrelly said: “I hope people will see this news and feel vindicated after having had remarkable courage to come forward and relate their experiences or assist others to do so; it will no doubt have been incredibly difficult for them.
“Some people still struggle and are affected now by the experiences they suffered at Villa, as young footballers hoping for a career in the game. This particular investigation and MacDonald’s departure demonstrate that people in authority can be held to account for their actions, even if it takes many years. There is no place for people like him in football.”