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Chelsea Apologises After Report Finds Ex-Scout Eddie Heath Abused Youth Players

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistAugust 6, 2019

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 24: Detailed view of a Chelsea badge on a corner flag prior to kick off during the Carabao Cup Semi-Final Second Leg match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on January 24, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Chelsea have offered an apology after an independent investigation found chief scout Eddie Heath sexually abused several youth players during the 1970s.

Barrister Charles Geekie QC helmed the investigation, which took place over two years and led to a report which described Heath's "serious and unambiguous sexual assaults," per BBC Sport's Dan Roan and Jack Skelton.

The details prompted Chelsea to apologise "unreservedly" on Tuesday.

The investigation's findings concluded some adults had to have knowledge of the incidents, and the report said some connected to the west London club "turned a blind eye."

Specifically, the report names then-assistant manager Dario Gradi, who is said to have failed to act when the parent of a youth prospect brought a complaint about Heath to his attention.

Gradi, who went on to manager Crewe Alexandra, is said to be responsible for "a lost opportunity to expose Heath and prevent further abuse."

Roan and Skelton noted Gradi gave evidence to the investigation, during which "he denied trying to 'smooth over' the matter in a meeting with the boy's father."

Gradi was suspended by the English Football Association in 2016 while an investigation took place into his response to allegations against Heath.

Twenty-three witnesses offered evidence against Heath, reporting Heath's actions in the changing rooms were "inappropriate" and included "sexual innuendo." They also said Heath "took care that his most serious sexual assaults took place in private." 

Of those witnesses, 15 came forward to report serious assaults and rape.

Geekie believes Heath engaged in manipulation of young players through "their families, used pornography to 'sexualise' boys and abused his role at the club to secure 'compliance' and 'silence' through fear."

While Geekie determined "there is no evidence" Chelsea's board was aware of Heath's behaviour, he did write "that some must have seen things" and failed to report the abuse.

Accusations were brought against Heath in 2016, with ex-Chelsea youth Gary Johnson leading the way. Now 59, Johnson told BBC Sport's Skelton and Patrick Nathanson he's "shocked by the number of victims."

Heath was fired from his role at Chelsea in 1979, according to Jeremy Wilson of The Daily Telegraph, and died in 1983.

Wilson noted then-manager Sir Geoff Hurst didn't speak to the investigation into Heath, but "he dismissed him shortly after being appointed manager because he was not satisfied with his scouting work."

Similarly, Gradi, 78, "has always denied any wrongdoing and did not comment following publication of the review."