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Ex-Chelsea player Gary Johnson says he was paid to keep quiet about abuse claims

Published 02/12/2016

Chelsea have launched an investigation into an allegation of child abuse in the 1970s
Chelsea have launched an investigation into an allegation of child abuse in the 1970s

Former Chelsea player Gary Johnson has said he was paid £50,000 by the Premier League club not to go public with allegations that he was sexually abused by the club's former chief scout Eddie Heath.

It was reported earlier this week that Chelsea had made a payment to an individual in the last three years following allegations regarding Heath. Johnson has waived his anonymity to say he was the former player in question.

"I think that they were paying me to keep a lid on this," Johnson said in the Daily Mirror, which reported that Chelsea had now waived the confidentiality clause in Johnson's settlement, which was made last year.

"Millions of fans around the world watch Chelsea. They are one of the biggest and richest clubs in the world.

"All their fans deserve to know the truth about what went on. I know they asked me to sign a gagging order and how many others are there out there?

"They may have paid others for their silence. I hope and pray no clubs are allowed to cover this up - no one should escape justice.

"We need total transparency now for the good of the game. What makes me so angry is that I went to them to say I had been abused and they basically said, 'prove it'."

Chelsea said on Tuesday they had appointed an external law firm to carry out a formal investigation into a former employee, with the club refusing to comment on any of the details.

A club statement said: "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.

"The club has also contacted the FA to ensure that all possible assistance is provided as part of their wider investigation. This will include providing the FA with any relevant information arising out of the club's investigation."

On Thursday, Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn said any club guilty of "hushing up" sexual abuse to protect their image would be punished.

"We have clear rules in the game and if there's any evidence of a breach of those - and hushing up would be one - when it's our turn to apply the rules, we absolutely will, regardless of size of club," Glenn said.

Johnson, 57, was a member of Chelsea's first team from 1978 to 1981, but joined the club as an 11-year-old in 1970 and claimed he had been groomed from the age of 13 by Heath.

"I felt shame, I felt my childhood had been taken away," Johnson said. "I spent my late teens in turmoil, absolute turmoil."

Speaking to the Mirror, Johnson detailed the abuse he suffered, and said he was aware of other victims of Heath who had not yet come forward.

Heath, who was the club's chief scout from 1968 to 1979, died before the allegations were made.

Seventeen British police forces have confirmed they are investigating fresh allegations of historic abuse in football. A Greater Manchester Police investigation has received reports from 35 people and has identified 10 suspects, the force said.

On Thursday it was revealed that a dedicated NSPCC helpline for football received 860 calls in its first week.

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