Chelsea accused of buying silence in 1970s

LONDON • Chelsea have been dragged into English football's child abuse scandal after the club revealed that they had appointed lawyers to carry out an investigation into a former employee.

It is understood that the investigation concerns the late Eddie Heath, who worked as chief scout for the club during the 1970s.

Chelsea refused to confirm or deny whether they were the unnamed club alleged to have paid a former player compensation after he complained of abuse by an employee, on the condition that he signed a confidentiality agreement.

The Times has spoken to one former Chelsea youth player in the 1970s who said that Heath was widely regarded as "someone to avoid" by young players at the club. He said: "Everyone would say, 'Don't let Eddie Heath see you in the showers or get you alone in his car'."

Chelsea said in a statement: "Chelsea Football Club has retained an external law firm to carry out an investigation concerning an individual employed by the club in the 1970s, who is now deceased.

"The club has also contacted the FA (Football Association) to ensure that all possible assistance is provided as part of their wider investigation. This will include providing the FA with any relevant information arising out of the club's investigation."

Heath had a long career in football, and former England midfielder Ray Wilkins had spoken about how he encouraged him and many other players to join a London youth side called Senrab, helping dozens to have careers in the game.

FA chairman Greg Clarke said it would be "morally repugnant" if any club had hushed up abuse.

The FA is worried about the possibility of compensation claims that could run into millions from victims of historical child sex abuse by youth coaches but has promised not to dodge any responsibility.

Clarke called the scandal the biggest crisis that the British game has faced. He also called for the conclusions of an independent review being overseen by Kate Gallafent, Queen's Counsel, into how the FA and clubs responded to a 1998 conviction of a youth coach for abusing boys, to be made public.

Six police forces - Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Hampshire, Northumbria, the Metropolitan police and Greater Manchester - are investigating allegations of historical sexual abuse.

Cheshire police have announced that Barry Bennell, a former Crewe Alexandra coach, has been charged with eight offences of sexual assault against a boy under the age of 14. He will appear in court on Dec 14.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2016, with the headline 'Chelsea accused of buying silence in 1970s'. Print Edition | Subscribe