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Four former Chelsea youth team footballers are taking the club to the High Court over alleged racial abuse in the 1980s and 1990s.
The players claim their careers were ruined by the abuse, which a Barnardo’s review said was “instigated” by former coach Gwyn Williams, and are seeking damages.
Williams has denied “any and all” allegations of racism.
In August 2019, Chelsea, who have initiated anti-racism initiatives in recent years, apologised to “all players who experienced this deeply shocking behaviour”. They have not admitted liability or personally apologised to those affected.
Some say they have been left traumatised and have sought therapy as a result of the abuse, which the report said had become “normalised” at the club at the time.
Chelsea have paid five-figure sums to two former footballers who were sexual abuse victims of ex-chief scout Edward Heath.
The four racism cases, first reported by The Athletic, are being prepared for the High Court in early 2022 and are understood to involve larger sums of money.
As a result, Chelsea’s case will be handled by the club’s insurers.
The law firm representing the players, Bolt Burdon Kemp, said it was “hypocrisy” for the club to take this approach while also showing support for ongoing anti-racism movements across the world.
The report into the racist abuse at Chelsea by children’s charity Barnardo’s, which interviewed 22 people and was commissioned by the club, found there was “racially abusive behaviour towards black young people at Chelsea during the 1980s and 1990s and that based on information from those spoken to, that Gwyn Williams was the instigator of such abuse”.
It heard how the culture at the club was described as a “dog-eat-dog environment” where there were numerous claims of Williams “humiliating and ridiculing black players by making racially derogatory remarks”.
The report also found that former player and coach Graham Rix “could be aggressive and bullying”, but on the evidence presented to the report, “he was not racially abusive”.
Rix has denied being a bully or a racist.