Blues agree to audit over sex abuse claims

LONDON • The present Chelsea regime did not break any rules in keeping quiet about allegations of sex abuse suffered by former youth player Gary Johnson, the English Premier League (EPL) said in a statement on Thursday.

The EPL said it has insisted that Chelsea, whose current owner, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, took over years after the abuse, have an independent expert carry out a full safeguarding audit.

"The league has no reason to have any concerns about Chelsea's current provisions in this area, but, given the seriousness of these historical allegations, feels that such a review is an appropriate course of action," it added.

Chelsea additionally have to provide the league with details of the club's internal review on historic abuse, launched after Johnson and several other former players came forward to claim they had been abused by scout Eddie Heath back in the 1970s. The EPL said Chelsea have agreed to the requests.

The club and Abramovich have been lambasted for imposing a gag order as a condition of paying Johnson £50,000 (S$88,700) compensation last year for the abuse he suffered at the hands of Heath.

Johnson, now 57, broke the order once other former footballers came forward to claim they had been victims of sex abuse decades ago and he told the BBC he would be seeking greater compensation from Chelsea as the abuse had "taken away his childhood".

There has been some speculation that Chelsea could face a class action lawsuit that could potentially cost them millions.

Heath, who died in 1983 aged 54, was sacked by Chelsea in 1979 by then-manager Geoff Hurst, not for sexual impropriety but because he spent more time decorating his office than scouting. He moved to another London club, Charlton Athletic, where a former youth player alleges he was abused by him.

It is not known whether Chelsea are one of the four London-based EPL teams under police investigation. Twenty-six other clubs from the capital are also involved.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2016, with the headline 'Blues agree to audit over sex abuse claims'. Print Edition | Subscribe