Chelsea keep mum on sex abuse payout

LONDON • Chelsea have become the first club to issue a payout to an alleged victim since the full extent of English football's sex abuse scandal was exposed, but they risk drawing criticism for not making the compensation deal public.

The club have reached an out-of-court settlement with a junior player who was allegedly abused by Chelsea's former chief scout Eddie Heath but declined to comment on the specifics of the deal.

The Blues have previously been condemned for paying £50,000 (S$90,790) to another former player, Gary Johnson, in effect to buy his silence.

Chelsea would not disclose how much money was paid to the alleged victim, who claimed Heath sexually abused him at the club's old training ground in Mitcham, south London.

The payment was made by the club's insurers rather than directly by Chelsea. Heath died in the mid-1980s but former Chelsea players have since come forward to allege he abused them in the showers after training sessions and games.

He was said to have cynically targeted boys with single mothers, and regularly offered to give them a lift to and from the training ground to allow himself the opportunity to carry out the abuse.

Chelsea will be keen to avoid appearing like they are attempting to conceal any compensation payments after they were widely denounced for making Johnson sign a confidentiality clause.

Johnson, who went on to play for the club's first team, said he was abused by Heath hundreds of times in the 1970s. He approached Chelsea in 2015 looking for compensation and alleged the club attempted to sweep the incident under the carpet.

Legal experts have predicted the final cost of compensation for abuse victims across English football could reach more than £100 million.

As of Dec 31, 2017, the number of football sex abuse victims was 839 with 294 alleged suspects and 334 clubs impacted. Those figures are according to Operation Hydrant, the police investigation into allegations of non-recent child sex abuse.

In February, former football coach Barry Bennell was jailed for 30 years after being found guilty of subjecting junior players from Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra to hundreds of sexual offences.

The Football Association is conducting its own internal review to find out what officials and clubs knew about potential abuse and when.

The country's governing body for the sport is also reviewing 6,000 files flagged as relevant during an initial review of more than 3,000 boxes from the FA's archive.

The FA has also taken the accounts of more than 100 survivors of sex abuse. Chelsea declined to comment when contacted by the Guardian.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2018, with the headline 'Chelsea keep mum on sex abuse payout'. Print Edition | Subscribe