If you haven't yet, I urge you to click over to the official Chelsea website and read the club's latest statement regarding the abuse suffered by the club's former youth player Gary Johnson at the hands of the club's former chief scout Eddie Heath. I'm not going to reproduce the whole thing here; it's fairly lengthy and quite detailed, so you should go ahead and read it.
Chelsea release comprehensive statement on historic sexual abuse, including an apology to ex-player Gary Johnson https://t.co/0o5jMrBgAY— Dan Levene (@danlevene) December 3, 2016
The statement includes all of the things one would expect in these sorts of statements — profound shock of the club, enormous courage and bravery of the victim, an absolute determination "to do the right thing" and to "learn from any mistakes that were made" and to "apologize profusely" — and also confirms the timeline of the case.
Johnson, via his lawyers, contacted the club in 2014 after first contacting the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) and then the police in 2013. The PFA had recently neither confirmed nor denied ever getting a call from Johnson, while the Metropolitan Police apparently told Johnson to take his issue up with the team. Chelsea then reached a settlement in 2015, which included confidentiality provisions, "usual practice", according to the statement and a provision that both parties signed off on.
Once the Telegraph broke the story and the wider scandal continued to escalate, Chelsea reviewed the case and removed the confidentiality clause. This, in turn, allowed Johnson to identify himself and tell his harrowing story to the Mirror.
Chelsea claim that the actions of the club and the handling of the case was motivated in part by the fact that Heath died in the early 1980s — nobody seems to know when he died, bizarrely, with other reports putting it at 1987, 1988, or even more recently than that in most of the initial reports — and thus he was "no longer a risk to children". Which sounds semi-reasonable, as does the obvious claim that Chelsea are a "very different" club now than in the 70s, though none of that explains why the club did not report the allegations and the settlement as required by Premier League rules. This latter part is one of the goals of the review that's being conducted by the external law firm as the club revealed in the first statement earlier this week.
The statement is signed by the Board of Directors, namely Bruce Buck, Marina Granovskaia and Eugene Tenenbaum. Whether they were involved in the original settlement (which was signed by the Company Secretary, Alan Shaw) remains unknown.
Unfortunately, this may not be the only case involving Chelsea. As more and more victims come forward — at least 17 more, according to Sky Sports, with 55 clubs involved in 350 claims — at least one more alleged victim of Heath's has told his story to the Independent. This was yesterday, before the club's statement above.
This former player, who "cannot be identified for legal reasons", tells his story of abuse by Eddie Heath and also of former assistant coach Dario Gradi coming to talk to his parents to help "smooth over" his complaints about the former chief scout. Whether this was on his own accord or on orders from Chelsea is unknown. Dario Gradi is much more known for his time at Crewe Alexandra, which also connects him with the Barry Bennell abuses that kicked off this still growing scandal.