Abuse lawyer criticises Ken Bates over podcast comments
Former Chelsea owner has described abuse allegations as a “trial by smear”.
Ken Bates has been accused of “victim blaming” after sticking by his remarks over allegations of racial abuse during his ownership of Chelsea.
The 86-year-old owned Chelsea from 1982 until June 2003, a period in which it is claimed by former youth-team players that they were racially abused by two coaches. Chelsea are investigating the allegations and say they are supporting those affected.
Bates was last month asked by the Proper Sport Daily podcast about the abuse allegations concerning Graham Rix and Gwyn Williams – who both vehemently deny all the allegations – and responded by saying “the sniff of money is in the air”.
He also described the episode as (a) “trial by smear”, prompting criticism from Dino Nocivelli, a solicitor representing a number of the claimants from the 1990s, who described Bates’ remarks as “truly shameful”.
A follow-up interview was broadcast by Proper Sport Daily on Thursday, giving Bates the chance to respond.
And, in a lengthy monologue, the former Leeds owner stuck by his comments.
“All I have been doing is posing reasonable questions,” Bates said.
“I think it’s a terrible day for England if someone like me raises those questions and is accused of ‘shameful’, ‘not doing this, not doing that’, demanding I apologise.
“For what? I raised a question. The easiest way is to answer the question and solve the problem.”
Nocivelli on Friday responded to Bates’ latest comments, after also being attacked personally.
“Mr Bates’ comments are an absolute own goal,” Nocivelli told Press Association Sport.
“I was hopeful that he would have taken the time to take on board my comments and to appreciate the error of his views but instead he compounds them in another shocking podcast.
“Mr Bates clearly does not understand why his comments are wrong. Victim blaming is unacceptable.”
Bates insisted he could not be held culpable for the alleged abuse.
He said: “How can you be responsible for something of which you have no knowledge?
“You can’t put a wrong right – an alleged wrong right – if you don’t know if there’s an alleged wrong taking place?”
He also insisted the alleged victims “weren’t children… they were teenagers”, adding: “Bullies only flourish if the victims don’t take them on. If you’re 14 to 16 you can’t be scared.”
Nocivelli said: “As a modern society we know how difficult it is for survivors of abuse to disclose and I am unsure why Mr Bates finds this a difficult concept.
“His opinion is offensive to every child who has suffered abuse.”
Nocivelli described the lack of discussion on the podcast of Chelsea’s decision to re-appoint Rix, following a conviction in 1999 for engaging in sex with a minor, as a “glaring omission”. Rix admitted the offence and was sentenced to 12 months in prison.
“I hope he (Bates) will be prepared to explain his actions,” Nocivelli added.
Bates also appeared to question Nocivelli’s motivation for the case, asking if the solicitor was working “pro-bono”.
Nocivelli said he was acting on a “no win, no fee basis” – there is no additional charge for a ‘win’ – that he fully believes in the cases and in obtaining justice.
Bates also questioned Lord Herman Ouseley, the chair of anti-discrimination group Kick It Out. Kick It Out on Friday declined to respond to Bates’ latest comments.