Chelsea have issued an unreserved apology for their failings following the publication of a review into historical child sexual and racial abuse at the club.
Following the disclosures of non-recent child sexual abuse perpetrated at the club in the 1970s, Chelsea hired a law firm to investigate.
Barnardo’s was commissioned a year later by the club to undertake a review of historical racial abuse at Chelsea during the 1980s and 1990s. Barnardo’s also conducted a review of the current safeguarding culture and processes at the club.
The investigation into child abuse centred on allegations made against now-deceased former chief scout Eddie Heath.
Charles Geekie QC, who led the review, interviewed more than one hundred witnesses and reviewed thousands of pages of evidence.
Chelsea said they have published the findings in full in order “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,” Chelsea added.
The club said Geekie’s report makes clear that Heath was a “dangerous and prolific child abuser” and that the abuse occurred unchallenged.
Chelsea added that although the club is now a vastly different place, they will not shy away from their responsibility.
The report also looked at the way Chelsea handled a civil claim for compensation made in 2017 after former player Gary Johnson claimed he was paid £50,000 by the club not to go public with the allegations.
It concluded that although the settlement agreed should not have included a confidentiality clause, the intention was based on a lack of appropriate advice and not to silence the claimant.
The report was also critical of Dario Gradi, who served as a coach at Chelsea in the early 1970s.
“Mr Gradi is the single example of a clear account of an adult in a position of responsibility at the club being informed about an allegation in relation to Mr Heath at the very time of the events complained of,” Mr Geekie wrote in his report.
“The consequence of my findings is that the complaint made about Mr Heath was not referred to more senior members of the club and an opportunity to prevent Mr Heath from going on to abuse others was lost.
“I consider it absolutely necessary in order to achieve the purpose of the review to name Mr Gradi.”
Chelsea have invited survivors of any child sexual abuse to make a claim for compensation by writing to the club.
The issue was brought into the spotlight after The Guardian uncovered the extent of child sexual abuse in football, leading to the conviction of former Crewe coach Barry Bennell, who was handed a 30-year prison sentence.
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. The number of victims stood at almost 850.
The Barnardo’s investigation into racial abuse claims indicated that a member of staff at Chelsea during the 1980s and 1990s subjected young players to bullying and racially abusive behaviour.
The report stated that this behaviour took place in an environment where “racially abusive behaviour became normalised”. Although the individual concerned denied the allegations, Barnardo’s concluded that the victim accounts were credible.
Barnardo’s, which has also reviewed the club’s current safeguarding structure, said inadequate systems were in place 30 years ago.
Barnardo’s has since identified “a healthy culture” that bears no resemblance to before but have also made a series of recommendations to Chelsea.
“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,” read Chelsea’s statement.
“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.”