Statement of the Board of Directors of Chelsea FC plc on Publication of the Reviews of Non-Recent Child Sexual and Racial Abuse at Chelsea Football Club
Tuesday 6 August
The Board of Directors of Chelsea FC plc is today publishing the completed external reviews of non-recent child sexual and racial abuse at the Club. The Board wishes to thank all the survivors and witnesses who came forward to assist the reviews and the Club apologises unreservedly for the terrible past experiences of some of our former players.
Review of Non-Recent Child Sexual Abuse
Following the disclosures of non-recent child sexual abuse perpetrated at the Club in the 1970s, we set out our intention to do the right thing - to fully support those affected and carry out an exhaustive investigation into what occurred to ensure that abhorrent abuse like this can never happen again. Two-and-a-half years on, the external review team, led by Charles Geekie QC, a barrister specialising in child protection, has conducted more than a hundred witness interviews and reviewed thousands of pages of evidence.
Although the Club today is a very different place from the Club then, with new ownership, operational structures and safeguarding procedures in place, we will not shy away from responsibility for what happened in the past. The intention of the review was to shine a bright light in the dark corners of the Club’s history so that we can learn lessons to help protect the players of the future. We also have no desire to hide any non-recent abuse we uncover. Therefore, today, we are publishing the completed review in full.
Charles Geekie QC’s review included a specific examination of the allegations of child sexual abuse by Eddie Heath, who was employed by the Club in the 1970s and died in the early 1980s. It is evident from the review that Heath was a dangerous and prolific child abuser. His conduct was beyond reprehensible.
The report details how abuse was able to occur unchallenged, and the life-changing impact it had on those affected.
The review team was also tasked with investigating the way we handled a civil claim for compensation made in 2014. This case was managed by specialist external lawyers on both sides and concluded with a settlement agreement which included a confidentiality clause. This matter was the subject of a board statement in December 2016. In his report, Charles Geekie QC concludes that, whilst the settlement agreement should not have included a confidentiality clause, it was included due to the lack of relevant specific advice being given to the Club and not to silence the claimant.
Charles Geekie QC’s review has found that the nature of the relationship between a coach or scout and player carries with it power that is capable of being abused – and this risk remains as relevant to the game today as it was historically. With that in mind, regular updates have been provided to The FA’s Sheldon Review, so that the lessons we have learned can be shared across football.
We must continue to challenge ourselves to do better as a club and as a sport. This is an issue that has affected all of football. Police data indicated that by March 2018, 340 clubs had already been impacted, 300 alleged perpetrators identified and over 2,800 referrals and reports received. Tragically the number of victims stood at almost 850.
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.
Survivors of child sexual abuse are also able to claim compensation by writing to the Club. Claims for compensation are being assessed and managed by the Club’s insurer and the Club will support survivors through the process.
Review of non-recent racial abuse
Barnardo’s were commissioned by the Board to carry out a review of non-recent racial abuse at the Club that came to light in 2017 and spanned a period in the 1980s and 1990s. They also considered current practice and culture.
As part of their review, Barnardo’s spoke with former players, former staff and also current players and staff.
Based on the evidence available, Barnardo’s found that there is overwhelming information indicating that a member of staff at the Club during the 1980s and 1990s subjected young players to bullying and racially abusive behaviour. Furthermore, this took place in an environment where racially abusive behaviour became normalised and there was an absence of the safeguarding systems and structures that exist today. Whilst the individual concerned denied the allegations, the Barnardo’s reviewers concluded that the numerous accounts given of severe racially abusive behaviour towards young players historically were credible. As a club we want to apologise to all players who experienced this deeply shocking behaviour.
We are doing, and will continue to do, everything we can to ensure that those boys, girls, men and women who play for this Club – and indeed anyone who works for or with the Club – will never have to endure the terrible experiences which these young players suffered.
In 2017, the club appointed Barnardo’s to carry out a review of its current safeguarding culture and processes. As the report includes sensitive live safeguarding information, it cannot be published in full. We are, however, today, publishing an executive summary.
We are pleased that Barnardo’s identified a healthy culture where young people are encouraged to speak up and are heard, and a culture that bears no resemblance to the one that existed more than thirty years ago. However, Barnardo’s full report made a number of recommendations for further improvement, all of which are being implemented by the Club.
We are acutely aware that maintaining a strong and healthy safeguarding culture requires constant leadership and hard work. We will also continue to work with independent organisations such as Kick it Out and Barnardo’s to ensure that we retain an independent perspective on the work of the Club.
The welfare and safeguarding of young people in the game must be our number one priority.
In addition to creating a strong and robust safeguarding culture at the Club today, we also want to ensure that all our former players are able to access support when it is needed. It is for this reason that the Club has formalised the services that we have been providing to players into a dedicated Player Support Service. This service will provide holistic support to all former players of the Club and full details are on the Club’s website.
Finally, 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.
We ask that you respect the privacy of those impacted.
The Board of Directors of Chelsea FC plc
Bruce Buck, Marina Granovskaia, Eugene Tenenbaum and Guy Laurence
If any survivors would like to speak to the Club directly, they can do so via Safeguarding@chelseafc.com or on 01932 596145.
Survivors can also seek support and advice from The NSPCC. Call on 0808 800 5000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The PFA also provides members with a 24/7 counselling telephone helpline. This 'round-the-clock' support is available to all members past and present.
24hr Counselling Helpline: 07500 000 777
Anyone who has a concern about the welfare of a child or the behaviour of an adult towards a child in football can also contact The FA on email@example.com.