In Brief

Ex-Chelsea footballer 'paid £50k by club to keep quiet on abuse'

Gary Johnson says he was assaulted by talent scout Eddie Heath in the 1970s and paid for his silence

Former Chelsea footballer Gary Johnson says he was paid £50,000 by his old club not to go public with claims he was sexually abused by their former talent scout Eddie Heath in the 1970s.

Johnson says he remained silent about the abuse, which began when he was 13, until the Jimmy Savile scandal inspired him to speak out in 2013.

Having "no success with the police", reports the Daily Mirror, he approached his old club, which he says paid him £50,000 last year in a settlement to keep quiet, without accepting any blame.

Chelsea has now waived the gagging order in the settlement "after details of [Johnson's] claim were leaked to the media", adds the newspaper.

Heath, who died in the 1980s, would attack Johnson at "every opportunity", he said. 

"He would get me naked in bed, try more adventurous things," he added. "During the course of this three to four years, he got me to perform in threesomes with other boys so I know there are other victims out there. It is now up to them if they come forward."

According to the Mirror, the Professional Footballer's Association (PFA) did not return Johnson's calls when he approached them before settling with the club. 

However, the BBC reports the association said it had spoken to the former player in 2013 and advised him to report the abuse to the police.

Johnson, who played for Chelsea between 1978 and 1981, was critical of his former club, telling the Mirror: "Chelsea are one of the biggest and richest clubs in the world. All their fans deserve to know the truth. 

"I know they asked me to sign a gagging order. How many others are there out there? I hope and pray no clubs are allowed to cover this up - no-one should escape justice."

Speaking to the BBC, Mirror editor Lloyd Embley questioned the probity of Chelsea paying the money to Johnson. "Premier League rules would seem to suggest that a club would need to come forward and say if they had evidence of child abuse," he said.

Chelsea have said they are investigating the claims. 

"Chelsea Football Club has retained an external law firm to carry out an investigation concerning an individual employed by the club in the 1970s, who is now deceased," they said.

"The club has also contacted the FA to ensure that all possible assistance is provided as part of their wider investigation."

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