Chelsea Football Club Apologises Over Non-recent Child Sexual Abuse
This week the Board of Directors of Chelsea FC published the results of an external review into non-recent child sexual abuse at the club.
The report contains evidence from 23 witnesses which details how young Chelsea players were groomed and abused by Eddie Heath, who was the clubs chief scout during the 1960s and 1970s.
Charles Geekie QC, a barrister specialising in child protection, conducted the exhaustive investigation into what occurred during the period while Heath was in post. Along with the report, Chelsea also released a statement which discloses how boys aged between 10 and 17 were targeted by Heath, who it appears was able to operate largely unchallenged.
15 of the 23 witnesses reported “serious and unambiguous sexual assaults” by Heath, which includes rape and inappropriate touching. These assaults are alleged to have taken place both when Heath was alone with the boys and whilst in the presence of others. Witnesses describe seeing Heath openly engage in groping behaviours, and state he would often make jokes using crude sexual language aimed at the boys.
The report says that the youth players labelled him “Nightmare Eddie,” and it was known among them that Heath was to be avoided. Geekie reports that Heath used pornography to “sexualise” boys and secured their silence through fear. It is reported that Heath targeted and manipulated vulnerable boys and their families, who were afraid to voice their distressing encounters because of the influence he had over their careers.
Heath died in the early 1980s, however he was never investigated, nor was he ever charged with any offences before his death. Geekie’s report states that Chelsea “were aware of and observed Heath’s lewd…behaviour”. Whilst it is alleged that some adults “turned a blind eye” to Heath’s conduct, the report concludes that there is no evidence to suggest the Chelsea board had actual knowledge of Heath’s behaviour.
The investigation has compelled Chelsea to commit to assessing compensation claims for victims, and to take steps to ensure abuse such as this never happens again. The club has apologised unreservedly for “the terrible past experiences” of some of their former players.
Chelsea’s statement reports that police data indicates the number of victims impacted by this issue in the sport stands at almost 850. This investigation follows a recent similar case which saw Barry Bennell jailed for 31 years for abusing boys while he was employed as a coach at Crewe in the 1980s. See more about this case here.
Enable Law’s Gary Walker is currently handling a number of claims relating to abuse by high profile football coaches. Gary says:
“We are pleased that Chelsea have offered an apology and indicated that they will support survivors through any civil claims. It is imperative that all those involved with the investigations recognise the importance that redress through the civil justice system can have for survivors. ”
If you or someone you know has been affected by issues raised in this article, please contact our specialist child abuse lawyers.