Chelsea issues 'unreserved apology' over historical child sex and racial abuse

Chelsea has issued a formal apology over historical child sexual and racial abuse at the football club.

Following a two-and-a-half year review into abuse suffered by academy players, the club said it "apologises unreservedly for the terrible past experiences of some of our former players".

An independent investigation, led by Charles Geekie GC, interviewed more than 100 witnesses.

A further review carried out by Barnardo's, found there was "overwhelming information" that young players at the club were subject to racist abuse during the 1980s and 1990s.

The club criticised former assistant manager Dario Gradi, who missed a chance to stop "dangerous and prolific child abuser" Eddie Heath, a former chief scout at Chelsea.

Heath coached Chelsea's youth teams from 1968 to 1979 and died in December 1983. The Stamford Bridge board branded his actions as "beyond reprehensible".

In his report, Geekie said: "Mr Gradi is the single example of a clear account of an adult in a position of responsibility at the club being informed about an allegation in relation to Mr Heath at the very time of the events complained of.

"The consequence of my findings is that the complaint made about Mr Heath was not referred to more senior members of the club and an opportunity to prevent Mr Heath from going on to abuse others was lost.

Former Chelsea head scout Eddie Heath was described as a 'dangerous and prolific child abuser'.

"I consider it absolutely necessary in order to achieve the purpose of the review to name Mr Gradi."

Gradi, who was appointed assistant coach at Chelsea in January 1971, was accused in the report of attempting to smooth over allegations of Heath assaulting a youth player during a visit to the player and his father. He was suspended by the Football Association in December 2016.

Gradi told the Geekie report the father of the boy did not want to complain to "get Eddie Heath in trouble". The former coach insisted that he told club management about the allegations.

He told the report: "The fact that he (the father) didn't want it to go any further, in other words, took the pressure off me as far as I was concerned.

"I think I probably would have tried to stand up for Eddie Heath a bit."

When asked if he offered an apology, Gradi told the Geekie report: "No. What could I apologise for?"

Geekie described Gradi's account of events as "unconvincing" in his report.

Gradi, who was appointed assistant coach at Chelsea in January 1971, was accused in the report of attempting to smooth over allegations of Heath assaulting a youth player Credit: PA

Former player Gary Johnson was abused as a teenager said he hopes Chelsea will follow with action now the report is out.

He told ITV News: "What I would like to know from the club is are they going to apologise to the victims individually or is it just one apology for everybody?"

Another survivor, who wished to remain anonymous, said football "let us down" and that he will have live with what happened even if justice prevails.

Gary Johnson wants Chelsea to follow with action. Credit: ITV News

The report goes on to describe Heath as someone who used "sexualised banter and innuendo" and "used pornography to sexualise boys".

"He targeted vulnerable boys and exploited their need for attention to create dependence upon him.

"He manipulated and groomed family members in order to persuade them to allow access to their children."

Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck has personally met with 17 abuse survivors and confirmed the club will offer financial compensation.

"While we implement the recommendations of the report, it is important that we also look to the future and ensure that abuse like this never happens again anywhere in football," read Chelsea's statement.

"Survivors of child sexual abuse are also able to claim compensation by writing to the club."

It continued: "We thank the survivors again for their bravery and dignity and the role they have played, and continue to play, in ensuring a safer future for our sport."