Chelsea Football Club has said that the confidentiality clause they included in a £50,000 settlement handed to sex abuse victim Gary Johnson was “inappropriate”.
The club has released a statement saying that the club was now a very different place to what it had been like in the Seventies. They said they have now asked an external law firm to look into how they handled the case of Gary Johnson.
Chelsea explained that it had received a letter two years ago from lawyers acting for Mr Johnson. They said that lawyers told them Mr Johnson had suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Eddie Heath in the Seventies, and that the former youth player was seeking compensation.
The club said that allegations of abuse had been reported to the Professional Footballers’ Association three years ago and then following that, to the police. They said that the claim was treated very seriously before settlement negotiations began.
Mr Health was accused of having “inappropriate relationships” with young boys and men at the club. Chelsea said that because it had only limited information, it had not been able to identify anyone else who might have been the victim of abuse.
Chelsea said it took action based on the thought that the incidents had taken place in the Seventies, but as Mr Heath died in the Eighties, children were no longer at risk. However, the club has asked lawyers to look into whether Chelsea officials ought to have launched an investigation at the time they received Mr Johnson’s letter.
It said that Chelsea’s board had been led to believe that it was usual to add in mutual confidentiality agreements as part of any settlement, so they asked to have one included. The clause gagged both parties so that no one could talk about the case.
According to the club, Mr Johnson’s legal team did not object to having the confidentiality clause included. However Chelsea added in a statement: “More recently, against the current backdrop of wider revelations and other victims coming forward bravely to tell their story, we no longer felt it appropriate to keep the confidentiality agreement in place. It was therefore removed.”