Following the latest developments regarding the alleged sexual abuse suffered by a former Chelsea youth player at the hands of the club's former chief scout, Eddie Heath, Chelsea have waived the confidentiality clause in the settlement that was reached, as it turns out, on July 16, 2015 (just last year!). In turn, the former youth player has come forward and has told his story.
There's nothing I could write that would do justice to his words, so be sure to click over to the Mirror and read Gary Johnson's harrowing tale.
Ex-Chelsea star says club paid him £50,000 to keep his sex abuse ordeal a secret https://t.co/Td4lnqhCOI pic.twitter.com/et7vX9ggnO— Daily Mirror (@DailyMirror) December 2, 2016
Johnson, who left the club in 1980 after just 22 appearances, joined Chelsea age at 11 in 1970 and suffered abuse from age 13 until 16-17. He has claimed that at least three others suffered a similar fate. Similarly, a report in the Telegraph claims that "a number" of former Chelsea youth players have now come forward, with the club forwarding any and all information received onto the proper authorities. That will not save the club from a "huge legal bill", as the report puts it, as well as any fines or punishment that the FA or the Premier League may hand down. As we learned yesterday, while the settlement may have been legal technically (and it may have been done on advice from one of the club's insurance companies), it's unclear if the club broke Premier League rules regarding the reporting of such incidents.
Gary Johnson's settlement was what appears to be a rather paltry sum of £50,000, though as a report in the Guardian claims, he did go to the police first, who then "opted against action" and advised the player to approach the club instead. As much as I have questions and concerns over Chelsea's handling of this issue — apparently we also rebuffed the claims initially (in 2013) and then paid out after Johnson hired legal representation and threatened to go public — just what were the police playing at here?
Reports agree that the settlement was approved at boardroom level, with the Telegraph naming Alan Shaw, who's served as Company Secretary since 1993, as the person who signed off on the deal. Shaw did at one point at least in 2013 serve on the executive board; it's unclear if that's still the case as Chelsea only list the usual quartet of Buck, Tenenbaum, Granovskaia, and Barnard as members of the Board.
As the nationwide scandal grows — over 350 victims have now come forward, according to police, and over 860 calls have been made to the NSPCC hotline set up last week — so does Chelsea's involvement and potential repercussions. While we cannot change the past, it is imperative that we do the right thing here (I'm not sure what that may be) and, equally as importantly, work with the proper authorities to ensure that such things never happen again.