Chelsea staff ‘turned blind eye’ to sexual abuse
LONDON: Young hopefuls at Premier League giants Chelsea were abused for years by a “prolific and manipulative” coach as staff at the club “turned a blind eye”, an independent report said Tuesday.
The report, led by lawyer Charles Geekie, found that the club’s former chief scout Eddie Heath, who died in 1983, was able to operate “unchallenged”, abusing boys aged between 10 and 17 in the 1970s.
Victims recalled that Heath used “sexual innuendo” in the changing room, but made sure “that his most serious sexual assaults took place in private,” it added. Heath’s behaviour was an open secret among players and staff.
Chelsea said in a statement that “Heath was a dangerous and prolific child abuser” whose conduct was “beyond reprehensible”. “Although the club today is a very different place from the club then… we will not shy away from responsibility for what happened in the past,” it added.
Claims for compensation are being assessed by insurers for the former European champions. Heath was sacked when England World Cup-winning hero Geoff Hurst took over the club in 1979.
But the former striker, now aged 77, denied knowing about Heath’s behaviour and turned down requests to be interviewed for the report. Geekie talked to 23 witnesses who claim that they were targeted by Heath, saying they painted a picture of an “audacious, manipulative risk-taker”. Many said they were fearful of telling the authorities and getting Heath into trouble, while others “wanted to impress him” to ensure they kept being picked.