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On the face of it, Chelsea’s response to the Gwyn Williams racism scandal was everything that might have been expected from a club that has prominently voiced support for the Black Lives Matter movement in the last couple of weeks.

The club issued a public apology after an independent inquiry concluded Williams had subjected black youth-team players as young as 12 to years of explicit racist abuse. Chelsea, who had commissioned the inquiry, offered counselling to the victims and said they were determined to stand in solidarity with the players. “We want to apologise to all players who experienced this deeply shocking behaviour,” a club statement read.

What they didn’t mention at the time was that, behind the scenes, a team of specialist lawyers was already working on Chelsea’s behalf to fight civil claims from players who, to use the club’s own description, had been part of “an environment where racially abusive behaviour became normalised”.

Today, an investigation by The Athletic can reveal that Chelsea are involved in a legal battle with a number of players who claim their experiences in the 1980s and 1990s left them with long-term psychological damage, including depression, anger and relationship issues.

The case is listed at the High Court for a three-week trial in March 2022 and has been brought by four former footballers, including one who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder because, he says, of a “feral environment” in which black players were treated “like a race of fucking dogs”.

Chelsea’s position is that the issue is being handled by their insurers’ lawyers, rather than the club, and that the matter is therefore out of their hands. However, that has not appeased the racial-abuse victims when it is “Chelsea Football Club Limited” listed as the defendants in court.

The Athletic can reveal Chelsea have simultaneously been paying damages to the victims of Eddie Heath, the former club scout who used his position to groom and abuse boys, aged from 10 upwards, during the 1970s. Heath, who died in 1983, was described in an independent QC-led inquiry last year as a “prolific and manipulative sexual abuser” who was able to operate “unchallenged”. His victims are understood to have received five-figure payments from the club’s insurers and a personal apology from chairman Bruce Buck.

Chelsea have taken a different stance, however, when it comes to the racism claims and are denying liability in each case. They had previously stated they were determined to “do the right thing” and it has left the relevant players feeling angry, hurt and disillusioned at a time when the club are showing public support for the Black Lives Matter protests.


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“The fact Chelsea have publicly come out in support of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter stinks of hypocrisy,” one player says. “As survivors of racial abuse at the club, we feel let down again, like our black lives don’t matter. The public face of Chelsea is not the private face of the club.”

An investigation by The Athletic has discovered:

  • Chelsea’s insurers have appointed a specialist legal firm Keoghs, which previously defended the Roman Catholic church as well as Crewe Alexandra in sexual-abuse scandals.
  • At least 10 former players, now in their 40s and 50s, are preparing cases relating to what one member of Williams’ youth team has described as a “mini apartheid state”.
  • One legal argument put forward on Chelsea’s behalf is that the players should have lodged their claims against Williams, not the club.
  • Jody Morris, currently No 2 to the club’s head coach Frank Lampard, may be among the former Chelsea players required to give evidence, having come through their youth system in the relevant years.
  • Chelsea have not offered individual apologies to the racially abused players since the independent inquiry carried out by Barnardo’s, Britain’s largest children’s charity, was published in August last year.
Williams, who is in his early 70s and said to have retired from football, was a prominent figure at Chelsea for 27 years, including a spell as assistant manager to Claudio Ranieri and a role in the scouting department for Jose Mourinho.

The allegations relate mostly to Williams’ years as Chelsea’s youth-team coach, with the 70-page Barnardo’s report detailing “many different accounts of terms being used by GW (Williams) such as ‘niggers’, ‘nig-nogs’, ‘rubber lips’, ‘monkey’ … ‘little coon’ … ‘darkie’. Other derogatory remarks reported to have been made to young black players included, ‘Who were you robbing last night?’”

Williams was said to have referred to three black youth-team players as “the Three Degrees”. He had a habit of “mimicking racial stereotypes by kissing one’s teeth, using a particular handshake and doing a particular walk in front of black players.” There were reports of him making chimpanzee-type actions towards his own players.


Williams speaking during a Chelsea Funday at Bisham Abbey in October 1985. (Photo: Hugh Hastings/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
The Athletic has spent several months gathering information about what, barring an out-of-court settlement, is shaping up to be the first case of its kind in football.

One of the players, whose account has been corroborated by two white team-mates, told the independent inquiry he had been so badly affected he found it too painful even to watch Chelsea on television because of the flashbacks. Even now, 35 years after he left the club, he remains so tortured by his experiences that he deliberately avoids going near their Stamford Bridge stadium.

The Barnardo’s investigators found a culture in which one black player was voted by team-mates as their player of the year only for the award to be given to a white player instead.

Williams was said to organise blacks-v-whites training matches and a mixed-race player, on his first day, was asked to choose his team. Some players became so worn down, they gave up football for good. One had gone all the way through the system and been awarded a professional contract but decided within a few months that he couldn’t take any more.

Other accounts relate to the long-term psychological damage, how “it never goes away” and how the pattern of abuse, in one victim’s words, felt like “a total avalanche.” One player described how the experience “sapped my self-confidence piece by piece”. Another felt “worthless, inferior, second-rate, degraded”.

Williams, widely credited for discovering future Chelsea captain John Terry as a youngster, has always denied making any racial comments whatsoever and, according to Barnardo’s, described the evidence against him as “biased, untrue, unfair and artificial and part of a concerted effort to scapegoat him concerning issues said to have existed from over 30 years ago”.

However, in the current case, The Athletic has discovered that Keoghs has written to the players to say they should be redirecting their complaints to Williams, not Chelsea. Keoghs even supplied the telephone number and company address for Eddie Johns, the solicitor for Williams.
The appointment of Keoghs is particularly noteworthy bearing in mind the publicity surrounding its tactics in the Crewe sexual-abuse scandal.

When Steve Walters, one of the abuse victims from Crewe’s junior system in the 1980s, lodged a claim for damages against the club, he received a letter from Keoghs stating there was “no reasonable explanation or justification” for him having waited until his mid-40s before reporting what had happened.

Legal papers submitted on Crewe’s behalf stated “there is no, or no adequate, explanation” why boys who had been raped and molested, mostly from the ages of 11 to 14, had not come forward earlier. Keoghs, a Bolton-based firm, specialises in limitation, the legal term for arguing that long delays can prejudice court cases. Kim Harrison, the lawyer representing Walters, described it as a “desperate and dirty tactic”.

Keoghs was also used by Blackpool earlier this year in the High Court case that led to that club being ordered to pay damages to a former junior player who, aged 13, was sexually abused by Frank Roper, one of their scouts in the 1980s. The judge ordered Blackpool to pay costs on an indemnity basis because the club, through their solicitors, had repeatedly ignored attempts by the claimant’s solicitors to try to reach a settlement.

The victim told the court he was “shocked by the approach taken by Blackpool. When I came forward, I expected the club to want to engage and to understand what had happened”. Making the costs order, the judge said the club’s conduct had been a factor and commented that “the reasons given for refusing to engage in mediation were inadequate”.

In Chelsea’s case, a trial in the High Court would attract huge media interest and potentially be of intense embarrassment. As well as Morris, there is the likelihood a number of former Chelsea players and staff members will be asked to give evidence.

“It makes an absolute mockery of a 17-month independent investigation that Chelsea commissioned themselves,” one former Chelsea player, who was diagnosed with depression after leaving the club, tells The Athletic. “Chelsea accepted the findings and issued a public apology to say sorry for getting it so wrong. Then two months later the lawyers deny liability again. It’s crazy.”

Chelsea put up a Twitter post on June 1 announcing they “stand together with George Floyd and all victims in the fight against discrimination, brutality and injustice”. The following day, the club released a photograph of their first-team squad taking the knee as a symbol of solidarity.

Chelsea FC (at )

✔@ChelseaFC

https://twitter.com/ChelseaFC/status/1267784859218587651

Before training at Cobham this morning, the Chelsea players and coaching staff formed the letter H, for humans, and knelt in a show of support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

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For Chelsea, these are matters of great importance when the club have not just had to deal with the Williams case but also a number of other high-profile incidents such as the John Terry trial (Terry was cleared of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, then of Queens Park Rangers, during a match but later banned by the Football Association). More recently, there was the racism that Raheem Sterling encountered when Manchester City visited Stamford Bridge in December 2018, leading to a Chelsea fan being banned from the stadium for life. In 2015, Chelsea were embarrassed by video footage showing a group of their supporters stopping a black commuter getting on a Paris Metro train, pushing him back onto the platform. Four fans were later given suspended sentences.

Chelsea have spoken out on many occasions against racism and, in their Twitter messages about Black Lives Matter, say they are “committed to being a part of the solution and we are joining our voice to all those calling for fairness, equality and meaningful change”.

That, however, has opened them up to criticism from the players, who now find themselves preparing for a court case against the club that once held their dreams.

One has told The Athletic that “it is hypocritical to say they support black abuse victims when they continue to treat me so unsympathetically”.

Others from the same case have said the same. “Chelsea had a chance to show the world that they would not tolerate the racial, physical and mental abuse found in the club-commissioned report by Barnardo’s,” one of Williams’ former youth-team players says. “To date, I have not received an apology from them.”

Chelsea said in a statement: “In August 2019, Chelsea FC published an independent review into non-recent racial abuse, which took place in the 1980s and 1990s. The board of Chelsea FC also apologised to all players who experienced this deeply shocking behaviour and has offered support to all those who suffered. The club today is a very different place from the club then, with new ownership, operational structures and robust safeguarding procedures in place.

“All claims for compensation are assessed and managed by the insurer appointed as part of a league-wide scheme of insurance. Whilst the insurer has full control over the claims, including the selection of lawyers, it remains the club’s desire that the cases are resolved as soon as possible.

“The club remains completely committed to providing support to survivors of abuse and ensuring that all our former players can access holistic support when it is needed through our dedicated Player Support Service.”
Chelsea say they are acutely aware there have been problems in the 1980s and 1990s of their black players experiencing in-house racism. The club’s argument is that the current regime has offered support to those players and their families and, in some cases, has helped the individuals reconnect with the club, attending first-team and academy fixtures as guests. Some of the players in the Williams case had meetings with Buck and the club’s head of safeguarding, Eva Bari, in the months before Barnardo’s published its report.
The players whose cases have reached the High Court are represented by Dino Nocivelli, a specialist abuse lawyer from Bolt Burdon Kemp solicitors in London, which has a number of other clients pursuing claims. Samantha Robson, of Robson Shaw solicitors, is representing another player who has instigated a separate claim.

“I have seen the club’s recent post in respect of the Black Lives Matter movement,” Nocivelli says. “Actions speak louder than words. We support and fight for our clients against injustice and we want the club to be part of the solution rather than another hurdle. My clients want to be treated fairly and to achieve meaningful change through these civil cases.”

Many of the players are also unhappy that Chelsea never condemned their former chairman, Ken Bates, for suggesting that “all these ancient coming-outs so many years later” were because “the sniff of money is in the air”.

Speaking in May 2018, Bates said he was keeping an open mind about the allegations involving Williams but added that the boys in question should have found themselves other clubs if their time at Chelsea was so upsetting. He criticised the players for preferring to speak anonymously and described it as “trial by smear”.

Nocivelli accused Bates of making “shameful” comments and it is increasingly clear that the players would have liked the current regime at Chelsea to say something, too.

“The club had the chance to distance themselves from how Ken Bates referred to myself and the other young black players who raised racial abuse within the club,” one says. “Instead they have turned a blind eye and this really hurts.”

Williams has also been accused in the past of making homophobic comments to Graeme Le Saux, the former Chelsea and England defender. “He would wander up to me before training and say, ‘Come on, poof. Get your boots on’,” Le Saux wrote in his autobiography.

Williams was so close to Bates, he later followed him to Leeds United, where he became the Yorkshire club’s technical director.

He was dismissed by Leeds for gross misconduct in 2013 after emailing pornographic images of women to a number of colleagues, including a female receptionist.

Disingenuous little turds. This sums it up for me.

On the face of it, Chelsea’s response to the Gwyn Williams racism scandal was everything that might have been expected from a club that has prominently voiced support for the Black Lives Matter movement in the last couple of weeks.

The club issued a public apology after an independent inquiry concluded Williams had subjected black youth-team players as young as 12 to years of explicit racist abuse. Chelsea, who had commissioned the inquiry, offered counselling to the victims and said they were determined to stand in solidarity with the players. “We want to apologise to all players who experienced this deeply shocking behaviour,” a club statement read.

What they didn’t mention at the time was that, behind the scenes, a team of specialist lawyers was already working on Chelsea’s behalf to fight civil claims from players who, to use the club’s own description, had been part of “an environment where racially abusive behaviour became normalised”.


Translation: Publicly back players and apologise for the actions of people in there employ yet as soon as they need to compensate them for the abuse... Fuck you guys. See you in court.
 
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Airfixx

Eroding the true defnition of glory since 1976...




Disingenuous little turds. This sums it up for me.

On the face of it, Chelsea’s response to the Gwyn Williams racism scandal was everything that might have been expected from a club that has prominently voiced support for the Black Lives Matter movement in the last couple of weeks.

The club issued a public apology after an independent inquiry concluded Williams had subjected black youth-team players as young as 12 to years of explicit racist abuse. Chelsea, who had commissioned the inquiry, offered counselling to the victims and said they were determined to stand in solidarity with the players. “We want to apologise to all players who experienced this deeply shocking behaviour,” a club statement read.

What they didn’t mention at the time was that, behind the scenes, a team of specialist lawyers was already working on Chelsea’s behalf to fight civil claims from players who, to use the club’s own description, had been part of “an environment where racially abusive behaviour became normalised”.


Translation: Publicly back players and apologise for the actions of people in there employ yet as soon as they need to compensate them for the abuse... Fuck you guys. See you in court.
Filthy cunts.
 
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CSWY

Supporter
It has just occurred to me that apart from an old work acquaintance (who became a born again Christian) i have not spoken to a Chelsea fan for 20 years.

Hopefully i can manage another 20.
You lucky bugger. I’m sadly in their heartlands and there are swarms of them around me, as well as at work. The usual combo of suburban racist subhuman trash and clueless middle class idiots.
 
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You lucky bugger. I’m sadly in their heartlands and there are swarms of them around me, as well as at work. The usual combo of suburban racist subhuman trash and clueless middle class idiots.
My friend supported United as a kid and switched to Chelsea in the early 2000s. I'm assuming he'll be a Liverpool fan by next week.
 
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