Chelsea Coaches Accused of 'Racist Bullying' of Young Black Players During 1990s

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVAugust 19, 2021

20 May 2000 Wembley ; FA Cup Final ; Aston Villa v Chelsea ; Chelsea FC coaches Graham Rix (left) and Gwyn Williams (photo by Mark Leech/Offside/Getty Images).
photo by Mark Leech/Offside/Getty Images

Court documents entered by four of the 10 Black former Chelsea youth players who've filed civil lawsuits against the club allege a culture of "racist bullying" in the 1990s, including physical and verbal abuse by coaches Graham Rix and Gwyn Williams.

Daniel Taylor of The Athletic reported Thursday the court papers, filed ahead of a trial that begins March 7, include statements from one player who said Black players were "treated like a race of f--king dogs" and another who called it a "mini-apartheid state."

Chelsea previously accepted an investigative conclusion that Williams subjected Black players to a "daily tirade of racial abuse," though they've responded to the civil lawsuits by saying they "deny vicarious liability" in the case, per Taylor.

Williams and Rix, who weren't criminally charged following an investigation into the allegations after police said there was "insufficient evidence," continue to deny wrongdoing, according to The Athletic. While both former coaches declined comment on the situation, Williams filed a response saying he used racial language, but did so without malicious intent.

One player, who's now in his 40s, alleged in court documents Rix punched him between the legs and he's since dealt with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The trial is expected to include 62 witnesses, including several prominent members of the club and the Premier League in the past, including former Liverpool goalkeeper David James, a Black former England international who's listed as a witness to a racist incident involving Williams.

A player alleged he was walking past Williams and James following a December 1995 game when Williams grabbed him by the collar and called him a "fake c--n" and James a "proper c--n," per Taylor.

In August 2019, Chelsea released a statement saying it apologized for the "terrible past experiences of some of its former players" following an investigation into the matter and pledged "abhorrent abuse like this can never happen again":

"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."

The allegations surround time where the club was owned by Ken Bates, who purchased the team in 1982 and sold to current owner Roman Abramovich in 2003.

Lawyer Emma Ferguson, who represents some of the former players who've filed lawsuits, told The Athletic the players are "disappointed" Chelsea have "changed their position" from that 2019 statement to fighting the allegations in civil court.

"Chelsea's hypocrisy in appearing to support Black lives in public, whilst refusing to support Black victims of racist abuse in seeking the justice they deserve, simply aggravates our clients' pain and suffering," Ferguson said.

The March 2022 court case is scheduled to last five weeks.