Football: Crystal Palace suspend academy director for 'attempting to shower with Under-18 team'

Selhurst Park in London, home ground of Crystal Palace Football Club. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/CRYSTAL PALACE FOOTBALL CLUB

(THE GUARDIAN) - Crystal Palace have suspended their long-serving academy director, Gary Issott, pending the results of an internal investigation into alleged inappropriate behaviour after suggestions emerged that he had attempted to shower with members of the club's Under-18 team at an away fixture this season.

Palace suspended Issott and informed the Football Association last month after a member of staff overheard two academy players discussing his alleged conduct and alerted the club's head of safeguarding, Marcus Puddephatt.

The initial concerns, passed on immediately to the board of directors, are understood to have centred more on jokes the academy director is supposed to have made in the presence of Under-18 players.

No official complaint has been made by any of the academy's players or their parents and the shower incident took place after an away game at Colchester in November where there were no separate facilities on offer for coaching staff.

There has been no suggestion or allegation that Issott has ever made physical advances towards any of the players.

As part of Palace's investigation, their safeguarding officer interviewed all members of their Under-18s squad and their parents about the issue, with the FA and Premier League kept fully informed of its progress, as per normal protocol.

They hope to conclude their enquiries this week and will then forward their findings to the governing bodies.

" Crystal Palace Football Club has suspended its academy director over a disciplinary matter," the club said.

"No complaints were received from members of the academy or their parents, but the club is carrying out an investigation after receiving information. The findings will be passed to the Football Association, which has imposed an interim suspension while the investigation is under way."

Palace will provide their own recommendation in terms of possible sanction when the internal investigation ends, with the FA then to determine their own risk assessment before deciding the best course of action.

Issott joined Palace from Tottenham and has been instrumental over recent years in building a productive academy system, through which Palace have developed talent such as Wilfried Zaha, Victor Moses, Nathaniel Clyne, Ben Watson and Wayne Routledge.

They operate 10 separate age-group teams from Under-23s down to Under-9s from a site temporarily housed opposite the club's senior training ground in Beckenham.

Issott was contacted by The Guardian but did not respond.

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