Football

Lawyer claims 'several' clubs paid players to keep quiet about sex abuse

The lawyer who helped set up a new Trust to raise money for footballers who were sexually abused as young players has claimed gagging orders have been used by "a number" of clubs.

Chelsea on Saturday apologised to former player Gary Johnson for the abuse he suffered as a trainee in the 1970s, having waived the confidentiality clause in the £50,000 (S$90,417) agreement they made with Johnson in 2015.

That allowed Johnson, now 57, to tell the Daily Mirror last week that he was assaulted multiple times over a three-year period by the club's chief scout Eddie Heath, who is now dead.

Speaking at the launch of the Offside Trust in Manchester, Prosperity Law's Edward Smethurst said "calls and e-mails are coming in all the time" from players claiming to have been forced to sign non-disclosure agreements with clubs in return for compensation.

GROWING SCANDAL

"Certainly, the allegations have been made by victims that confidentiality clauses have been used in relation to other clubs, but I'm not in a position to independently verify this," said Smethurst, an award-winning lawyer who also chairs the Madeleine McCann Fund.

"It's unfolding as we speak. It's a number. It's several, but less than five."

To give a sense of how fast the scandal is growing now, the latest police information is that new lines of inquiry are being followed at 55 clubs up and down the country, with Monday seeing fresh allegations about clubs and an official in Scotland.

In Chelsea's apology to Johnson, the club said they "no longer felt it appropriate to keep confidentiality in place".

- PA SPORT

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