A report into allegations of grooming and sexual abuse against Eddie Heath; a former Chief Scout at Chelsea Football Club has found that he was a dangerous and prolific paedophile. Allegations started coming to light when ex-players made reports about abuse that had taken place in the 1970s – the victims being players who were aged between 10 and 17 at the time.
The allegations against Heath led to an external inquiry led by Charles Geekie QC, during which 23 witnesses gave evidence. Chelsea have apologised unreservedly and have promised to pay compensation to the men that are affected. The evidence showed that Heath manipulated the boys and their families to keep his crimes secret. There are also allegations that people at Chelsea Football Club were aware of what was happening but did not speak out.
The witnesses have spoken powerfully about how the abuse has affected them every day for all these many years. Most had dreams of being professional footballers, yet many gave up because of what happened to them.
Major Police Investigations have taken place over the last few years directed at football coaches and the clubs they have worked for – Manchester City, Newcastle United, Norwich City, Crewe Alexander, Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton FC and Peterborough United. Many of the perpetrators, like Eddie Heath have now passed away, but the boys – now men – and their families that have been affected are still coping with the wide reaching effects. Manchester City established a multi-million pound compensation scheme for victims of abuse at the hands of former coaches at the club.
One issue that has come up time and again is that the boys had no-one to turn to for help. They were too frightened to report what was going on.
We have seen an overhaul from grass roots clubs to top flight professional clubs of their approach to safeguarding and reporting now. Training, resources, information sharing and tougher regulatory controls have significantly improved, so too has multi agency involvement between the police, sports club and associations. Prevention and protection being the key focus.
The NSPCC and other charities who support people who have survived abuse in sport insist that parents and their young people should become involved in their clubs and associations. They should ask to see policies and documents and they should be ready to ask the club the following questions:
- Whether the club is affiliated to any sports governing body and/or club accreditation scheme? If so, their safeguarding policies will have been scrutinised already.
- Who can be contacted at the club if you or your child have a concern?
- Does the club have an up to date safeguarding policy in place?
- Does the club have a code of conduct in place for coaches / volunteers / children / parents?
- Does the club follow safe recruitment procedures for all their coaches and volunteers such as PVG (Protecting Vulnerable Groups) checks, references and induction processes?
- Do the coaches all have an up to date coaching qualification and/or licence?
If you are a parent or a member of a club who needs support or information about what can be done at your club, please visit https://thecpsu.org.uk/ for information.