Ex-players tell ITV News racist abuse in Chelsea youth setup was 'the norm' as more speak out

Chelsea FC is facing a growing number of allegations over a culture of systematic racism and bullying directed at youth team players in the 1980s and 1990s.

The Premier League club is already dealing with legal claims from four black former trainees but ITV News can reveal another five players have come forward with similar, serious accusations.

The main allegations are directed at Gwyn Williams who was in overall charge of Chelsea’s youth setup at the time.

He denies racially abusing any player during his time at the London club.

One of the former players who has come forward claims Williams justified his abuse by saying he was preparing them for a career in a tough environment.

"He said, 'You're going to get this type of abuse on the terraces, if you can't deal with it in training you won't make it as a pro.'"

Significantly two white players have confirmed to ITV News not only the level of abuse of black players but that it became so frequent “it was the norm”.

Grant Lunn was a goalkeeper who during his early career played with and against many teenage talents who would go on to become household names, England captain’s Tony Adams and Paul Ince among them.

  • Chelsea youth keeper Grant Lunn says abuse was carefully timed

After being made aware of his former teammates’ attempts to get an apology from the club about how they were treated, Lunn decided he wanted to support them.

"There would always be remarks. C***n, black b*****d as the most, n****r, unfortunately that came out," Lunn told me.

"It was the norm. It wasn't just one individual, it was any individual. Any black individual would get spoken to like that."

Lunn recalls the timing of the comments were significant.

"It would happen during team talks, definitely during training but it would never happen in games,” he said.

  • Ex-player claims youth team was split up on racial lines

Games were when parents and others from outside the club would be watching.

While the latest black players to come forward all played at different times, they share similar experiences. Experiences that shaped their personalities and careers.

One of them told me race defined everything they did in training.

“For example on Fridays we'd have 5 aside football matches training and it would be blacks versus whites," he recalled.

"There was always a feeling of race, that was always involved in being at Chelsea.”

Another former player said: "It soon became quite obvious that the environment I was in wasn’t healthy, and I use this word upon reflection, it seemed toxic.

"There was a culture of a sense of racism, the language was very aggressive, very demeaning."

The impact on the players was varied.

Some say it made them aggressive, others experienced depression. It changed them as people.

One ex-player, who believes his race was a factor in Chelsea's decision to ultimately release him, said: "In today’s working environment I lack confidence. Speaking to people you always have this sense of what are they thinking? Are they going to use these types of words with you? How do you defend yourself?"

Another told me: "I became very argumentative. In my school days it was completely the opposite, I was mild mannered. Looking back at Chelsea, I was confrontational, very opinionated, but I felt the right channel for that was with the football, as opposed to the racism.”

Solicitor Renu Daly, who is representing the former players, told ITV News: "There's so many children, and they were children, abused at such a young age.

"I don't believe that they had the understanding at that time ... to appreciate the extent of damage psychologically that was happening at the time. It's only come many, many moons afterwards."

Solicitor Renu Daly, who is representing the players, said she expects more to come forward. Credit: ITV News

On the increase in the claims against Chelsea, she added: "I'm not surprised at the amount of people that have come forward and I also wouldn't be surprised if a lot more people come forward, which I hope they do.

"Because of the abuse that went on and the period of time it went on I imagine there are a lot of people out there suffering in silence."

One of the former players told ITV News he is convinced the club could and should have put a stop to it all.

"It was open," he said, claiming the comments were "regular, open in front of senior players, senior management".

Gwyn Williams denies racially abusing any player during his time at the club. Credit: PA

Chelsea responded to ITV News by saying: "We take allegations of this nature extremely seriously and they will be fully investigated.

"We are absolutely determined to do the right thing, to assist the authorities and any investigations they may carry out, and to fully support those affected which would include counselling for any former player that may need it."

Gwyn Williams’ solicitor said he would not be commenting "save to say he repeats he did not racially abuse any player or youth at Chelsea Football Club".

Gwyn Williams went on to coach Chelsea's first team stars including Gianfranco Zola and Dennis Wise. Credit: PA