The former Chelsea youth team player who says he was sexually assaulted by the chief scout during the 1970s is understood to have approached the police prior to seeking and securing compensation from the club.
The current Premier League leaders have appointed independent lawyers to carry out an investigation into Eddie Heath, who worked at the club between 1968 and 1979 and died in the late 1980s.
A compensation payment was sanctioned at boardroom level on the advice of Chelsea’s insurers within the past three years to a former youth team player after he approached the club to complain of being abused by Heath, apparently emboldened by the publicity about Jimmy Savile.
He had previously taken his complaint to the Metropolitan police who, it is understood, opted against taking any action. A spokesman for the force declined to comment on the specifics of the case and reiterated its stance, outlined in a statement issued last week, that information has recently been received relating “to non-recent sexual abuse in football clubs in London”.
The Professional Footballers’ Association has confirmed it was not contacted by the player over the allegations, but would remain receptive to helping the victim if he chose to approach them.
Chelsea’s compensation settlement with their former youth team player was made on the condition that a confidentiality agreement was signed preventing the victim, his family or lawyers speaking publicly about the allegations. While such an order might have been considered standard in compensation settlements at the time, and in effect designed to protect both victim and the club, it is understood they would have no issue in the waiving of that agreement now.
The club will provide the Football Association with any relevant information unearthed by the investigation into Heath currently being undertaken by private counsel, with the governing body’s chairman, Greg Clarke, having already claimed it would be “morally repugnant” if it was found that attempts were made to hush up allegations of abuse. The FA is already conducting its own investigation into the crisis and have appointed QC Kate Gallafent to lead the inquiry.
“I find it morally repugnant that people would suppress reporting of crimes against children to protect their reputation,” said Clarke. “If anyone has behaved improperly, they will be held to account and that information will be released. The FA will not be part of any coverup. If a club has behaved badly, they will be held to account.”
It has been reported that Chelsea initially rebuffed the claim against Heath when it was lodged three years ago, but decided to make a payment when the victim threatened to make the allegations public. The compensation was offered without an acceptance of liability.
Chelsea would have consulted its insurance company – football clubs often take out policies with insurers on retainer to cover eventualities even as rare as this – upon the emergence of their former player’s claim and sought advice on how to proceed. The relevant company would consider the claim and evidence before advising whether a settlement package should be proposed to the victim. The board at Chelsea would then have sanctioned the payment, by the insurers, of that amount.
The NSPCC revealed that within two hours of the helpline opening on 23 November, it received 50 contacts from members of the public and 860 calls were made in the first week.
NSPCC staff made 60 referrals to police or children’s services, more than triple the number of referrals made in the first three days of the NSPCC’s Savile helpline opening in 2012.
The NSPCC’s football abuse helpline can be contacted 24 hours a day on 0800 023 2642.
More than a quarter of UK police forces are investigating allegations of historical child sex abuse in football.
Essex and Norfolk police are the latest to confirm they are investigating claims, bringing the current tally to 13. North Yorkshire, Dorset, Staffordshire, Greater Manchester, North Wales, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire, Cheshire, Northumbria, Scotland Yard and Police Scotland have also launched inquiries.