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Anorak News | Chelsea embroiled in football abuse story short on facts

Chelsea embroiled in football abuse story short on facts

by | 2nd, December 2016

The Mirror leads with the “FOOTY Paedophile Scandal”. We hear from former Chelsea player Gary Johnson, who says he was paid £50,000 last year to keep quiet about the abuse he suffered at the hands of a club scout in the 1970s.

Over pages 4,5,6, and 7, Gary Johnson claims he was sexually assaulted by Chelsea scout Eddie Heath “hundreds of times in three years”.

Eddie Heath is dead.

Says Johnson of Chelsea: “I think that they were paying me to keep a lid on this.” If they did, will Chelsea be asking for their money back? Johnson says Chelsea “asked him to sign a gagging order”. “They may have paid others for their silence,” he adds. We then learn that Chelsea “waived the clause in Gary’s settlement banning him from speaking about abuse after details of his claim were leaked to the media.”

Did Chelsea know Johnson was being abused in 1973 when he was a 13-year-old at the club, continuing until Gary was “around 16 or 17 and happened two or three times a week”, as he says?

Gary Johnson says Heath got him to perform in threesomes with other boys, “so I know there are mother victims out there.” He adds: “it is now up to them if they come forward”.

Do we expect them to?

Brendan O’Neill writes:

In these post-Savile times, we’ve come to think that all former victims of child abuse have some kind of responsibility to parade their wounds. We have come to expect, somewhat greedily, even perversely, that the abuse of decades ago must be relived, as publicly as possibly, in order to ‘raise awareness’. I’m sorry, but I think it’s possible there’s an element of moral titillation to all this. And I think it’s possible that it makes abuse victims even less likely to get over their experiences by making them go through it all again for our viewing or reading pleasure.

We learn that in 2014, Gary Johnson contacted the Met Police’s Operation Yewtree. He says he was “advised to go back to Chelsea with his case”. The police palmed him off to the club? If so, that’s abhorrent. Did they investigate? We’re not told. Mr Johnson says the “Professional Footballers’ Association did not return his calls”. So he contacted lawyers, who asked Chelsea for compensation.

Says Gary Johnson: “What makes me so angry is that I went to them to say I had been abused an they basically said, ‘prove it’,” Was that wrong of them? Chelsea are no longer owned by the Mears family, as they were in the 1970s. Why should the new owners take anything on face value alone when a man is asking for money and claiming to have been the victim of heinous crimes by a former employee? Gary Johnson says Chelsea’s “attitude when I came forward was to sweep it under the carpet”.

His claim was supported by Roger Kennedy, who says: “Mr Johnson has been haunted by the abuse for most of his life, but the intensity of the flashbacks have increased since he has become more aware of the nature of what happened due to the publicity around Jimmy Savile.”

 

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The Mirror is quick to blame the club, saying Chelsea used its “financial might to cover up abuse”. It is the “tip of the iceberg”. Did Chelsea behave badly? All we know of the money and the deal is that Mr Johnson says: “I think that they were paying me to keep a lid on this.”

The Mirror says the story “implies they [Chelsea] cared more about commercial rights and sponsorship deals than helping survivors cope with the torment of abuse”. The paper says Chelsea are “morally questionable”.

What of the police, then, and the PFA, two institutions Mr Johnson says failed him? What of the lawyers who accepted an worked on the deal?

Writing in the Mail, Martin Samuel confronts the matter of a club’s role. He says the current Chelsea owners are part of the club’s heritage.

Yes, the sport is different now. Yes, stricter protocols and procedures are in place, and those in charge of youth development may protest that the past is a foreign country. But it isn’t.

Modern clubs must assume responsibility, be the custodians for all those years. Everything, from the fanbase, to the location, to modern revenue streams, and items in glass cases that directors view with pride, they owe to those ancient dates and what followed. And much of it may have been good.

But what isn’t, what is almost too poisonous to contemplate, cannot be disowned.

When you buy a club, you buy the heritage, the good and the bad.

It’s a shame we don’t know the full terms of Mr Johnson’s deal and how the £50,000 sum was agreed upon. Chelsea are investigating. Hopefully, Chelsea will be transparent and we will know more soon. Dare they be anything but? The Mail leads with the headline: “FA VOW TO HIT CHELSEA HARD.” Any club “who have given a child abuse victim hush money will be punished”. Chelsea are “in the dock”, says the paper. The club may well ask, “On what charge?”

By way of a footnote, the Mirror says Eddie Heath trained Barry Bennell, the convicted paedophile, when he was a 14-year-old at Chelsea. The Mirror says there is “no suggestion” Bennell was a victim of Heath’s.

Heath is dead. Also dead is Frank Roper, a man who former footballer Paul Stewart says abused him “every day for four years”. Gary Johnson says Paul Stewart encouraged him to tell his story.

We can expert to hear others.



Posted: 2nd, December 2016 | In: Chelsea, Reviews, Sports, Tabloids Comment | TrackBack | Permalink