Chelsea brac­ing for pos­si­ble law­suit

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Lon­don

Pre­mier League gi­ant Chelsea could face a multi-mil­lion dol­lar law­suit for dam­ages over sex abuse per­pe­trated by a former scout decades ago, the Mail on Sun­day re­ported.

The news­pa­per claimed the num­ber of former play­ers to al­lege abuse by the late Ed­die Heath has dou­bled to six over the past week, and the ma­jor­ity are from Heath’s time at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea owner Ro­man Abramovich — who bought the club years after the al­leged crimes were car­ried out — sanc­tioned a $63,850 pay­ment to one of the play­ers, Gary John­son, in 2015 pro­vided he did not go pub­lic about it.

The lat­ter mea­sure earned crit­i­cism, prompt­ing Chelsea to apol­o­gize to John­son in a state­ment that said the gag or­der was “in­ap­pro­pri­ate” but was in­cluded based on le­gal ad­vice the club con­sid­ered nor­mal in such agree­ments.

John­son broke his si­lence once the del­uge of al­le­ga­tions re­gard­ing other clubs emerged last month.

He is de­mand­ing more com­pen­sa­tion from the club, which also ad­mit­ted it was alerted to other cases like John­son’s but did not purse them.

Chelsea is just one of 98 clubs from all lev­els of English soc­cer that the Na­tional Po­lice Chiefs Coun­cil (NPCC) said have been im­pacted by the scan­dal, with around 350 al­leged vic­tims and 83 peo­ple iden­ti­fied as po­ten­tial sus­pects.

That to­tal does not in­clude two who have been charged.

Former Crewe Alexan­dra youth coach Barry Ben­nell, who has served three jail terms for sex abuse, was charged with eight more sex of­fenses against a boy un­der 14 years old.

Ex-Celtic em­ployee Jim McCaf­ferty ad­mit­ted he at­tacked four play­ers dur­ing his time in Scot­land, claim­ing he con­fessed to ‘ cleanse his soul’. He gave him­self up to the Po­lice Ser­vice of North­ern Ire­land last week and was charged with an of­fense not linked to soc­cer.

While Chelsea has launched an in­ter­nal re­view — just as gov­ern­ing body the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion did with re­gard to what pre­vi­ous regimes knew about the claims — more former youth play­ers told the Mail on Sun­day that Heath was “a well­known preda­tor.”

Richard Wil­son, who be­came a de­tec­tive in child pro­tec­tion for Kent Po­lice, told the news­pa­per Heath, who died in 1983 at age 54, moved to Charl­ton Ath­letic after he was fired by then Blues man­ager Ge­off Hurst in 1979 for spend­ing more time dec­o­rat­ing his of­fice than scout­ing, be­haved “like a kid in a sweet shop.”

Wil­son said Heath urged youth play­ers to play pool and ta­ble tennis in his “pre-fab­ri­cated pav­il­ion”.

“Look­ing back it was part of the groom­ing process,” said Wil­son. “He never touched me, but Ed­die en­joyed the per­fect con­di­tions to prey on boys.”

Wil­son said Heath stayed away from boys who had sta­ble fam­ily back­grounds, and added he was mys­ti­fied when his best friend John­son be­came a recluse.

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