Chelsea have become directly involved in the growing child sex abuse scandal in English football on Tuesday, as a Telegraph investigation revealed that the club have been making payments for the last three years to a former youth team player as part of a legal settlement that prohibited him, his family, and his lawyers from talking about the alleged abuse.
The unnamed player's claims were initially rebuffed by Chelsea when he approached the club three years ago (in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal), but after he threatened to go public, Chelsea paid him off without accepting any liability. The player had also taken his complaint to the Metropolitan Police, according to the report, though it's unclear what, if anything had come of that move.
It is not known at what level these payments were authorized, but when approached by the Telegraph, Chelsea did not deny that the payments had been made. According to The Times, this is "the only case" that Chelsea have dealt with, but one of the Telegraph's sources claims that the alleged victim believed he wasn't alone in suffering these "very serious offences".
Earlier on Tuesday, Chelsea released an official statement regarding an investigation into a former (unnamed and now deceased) employee of the club, while also stating their intent to fully cooperate with The FA's wider investigation. According to various reports including the Telegraph's, that employee was Eddie Heath, who served as chief scout from 1968 to 1979, but had died before the allegations were made. While no direct evidence corroborating the claims of abuse has been found so far, it would appear that Heath's behavior had been subject to a few rumors before.
Have spoken to one ex-Chelsea trainee who said all the boys warned the newcomers to avoid Heath in showers, car trips etc— Martyn Ziegler (@martynziegler) November 29, 2016
Ray Wilkins, who was one of the young talents discovered by Heath and was later not only a star player for Chelsea but assistant manager as well, was astonished by these accusations when commenting on them.
"I knew Eddie very well. It makes no sense whatsoever to me. Eddie was a great guy. Eddie Heath was fantastic as far as I am concerned. I have never heard anything like this [about Eddie]."
While Wilkins and others were dealing with the shock of these allegations, English Football Association chairman Greg Clarke called the scandal one of the biggest crises in the history of The FA on Tuesday, as The FA's inquiry into what various officials and clubs knew and tried to cover up continued. Clarke also called it "morally repugnant" that clubs would work to suppress the reporting of any such crimes.
"It's certainly the biggest crisis I can remember and we're trying to be completely transparent. We've hired an external QC to oversee the process. The conclusions will be her conclusions, not mine. She will get all the evidence, all the facts, and everything that can be disclosed will be disclosed."
"The scope of the inquiry is a little inhibited by the preference given to the criminal justice system. The police don't want us to talk to victims and taint evidence. So the scope of our inquiry is all the things that passed through the FA, how they were reported, how they were dealt with, who knew about it."
"It will be gone through in a completely rigorous manner, and she will then write her report and make her recommendations. That report will go to the FA board and anything that isn't confidential will then be disclosed."
-Greg Clarke; source: Mail
Two weeks ago, former Crewe Alexandra defender Andy Woodward stepped forward to reveal that he was a victim of abuse by (later multiple times) convicted paedophile Barry Bennell in 1980s. Since then, more than 20 ex-footballers have made allegations of child sex abuse, while according to the BBC, police have received more than 250 calls relating to historical abuse and the NSPCC hotline received more than 50 calls in its first two hours of operation. Bennell today was charged with eight counts of sexual assault.
After a delayed reaction, Crewe launched an internal investigation, while a few others clubs followed suit, including Blackpool, Leeds United, and Manchester City. They were joined by Newcastle United last week, whose former youth coach George Ormond was accused by an anonymous ex-footballer. Ormond was jailed in 2002 after being convicted of 12 counts of predatory abuse between 1975 and 1999.
Unfortunately, this is still very much a developing story and I fear we're only scratching the surface of the ugly truth.