Chelsea bracing for possible lawsuit
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.