Chelsea pay damages to former youth players after racism claims

Chelsea pay damages to former youth players after racism claims

by Emily Smith
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A High Court hearing had been due to start next monthChelsea have agreed to pay damages to eight former youth team players who alleged they were racially abused at the club in the 1990s.

Four of the players were suing the club and were due for a High Court hearing next month about alleged abuse by former coaches Gwyn Williams and Graham Rix.

But an out-of-court settlement was reached on Monday after the club decided to take the case out of the hands of its insurers.

Lawyers for the claimants described the settlements as “significant” and in some cases were understood to reach six figures. Another case is yet to be settled.

Previously, Williams denied “all and any allegations of abuse”, while Rix denied he was “bullying, aggressive or racist”.

But in High Court documents referenced last year, Williams denied having used certain racially offensive terms but in regard to others claimed there was “no intention to cause harm” and added he would “never use these words today”.

The trial had been set to hear from more than 60 witnesses, including a “well-known goalkeeper” and had already been extended from 15 to 25 days.

It was set to centre around what a 2019 Barnardo’s report, commissioned by Chelsea, described as “deeply shocking behaviour” with Williams, who left the club in 2006, found by the report to be an “instigator” of racial abuse in the 1980s and 1990s.

One of the claimants told BBC Sport that he was called derogatory racial names, suffered racial stereotypes and was bullied by Williams into showing others his genitals. He claimed the abuse had led to “relationship issues, depression and ruined my whole life”.

Another said the experience was “traumatic” and “shot my confidence”. He added: “It made me view white people differently and it drained all my dreams to the point where I wanted nothing to do with football.”

One of the lawyers representing the claimants, Zahra Awaiz-Bilal, of Bolt Burdon Kemp, said: “These were the first cases of its kind and we are very pleased that our clients’ courage and determination has finally paid off.

“Chelsea FC admitted the horrendous racial abuse our clients suffered as children at the hands of their coaches and have paid significant sums of compensation to reflect the abhorrent nature of the abuse and the devastating impact it had on our clients.

“We hope that our clients’ bravery in speaking out will give many others a voice and help in the fight to end racism.”

A Chelsea spokesperson said: “The club is pleased that we have been able to conclude a settlement of these claims without any further litigation.

“We will continue to offer support to the former players concerned through our dedicated player support service.”

The BBC has contacted representatives of both Rix and Williams, who declined to comment.

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