A solicitor representing a number of former Chelsea youth players who say they were racially abused by coaches at the club in the 80s and early 90s says comments from the club’s former owner Ken Bates questioning the validity of their cases are ‘disappointing’ and ‘premature’.
In an interview Bates, who was owner of the Stamford Bridge club from 1982 to 2003, suggested the reason for “all these ancient coming-outs so many years later” was because “the sniff of money is in the air”.
He said: “These people have to reveal their identities and, without being unkind, what did they do about it at the time?
“If I’d been racially abused I would have told my dad and expected him to support me. Or I could have left the club and joined another one.
“It’s all very well to say, ‘Oh well, I didn’t want to say anything or do anything because it might have harmed my career’, but if you’ve got the ability there were plenty of other clubs snapping up young black kids. The sniff of money is in the air.
Renu Daly, of Hudgell Solicitors, is already representing a number of former black youth players who have alleged being repeatedly racially abused, and speaking to others who have come forward in recent weeks.
Players have alleged that racism was ‘the norm’ at the time, and happened on an almost daily basis. Some have spoken of training sessions involving games of ‘blacks v whites’.
Somehave spoken about how they feared speaking out at the time for fear it would impact on their careers in football, whilst some have said the abuse made them walk away from their careers in the game just after they had signed professional terms.
Ken Bates’ comments in ‘complete contract’ to response from Chelsea FC
Ms Daly said: “The comments from Ken Bates are very disappointing and interestingly completely contrast with the response so far from Chelsea FC with regards to these allegations.
“Chelsea have already stated they are taking the matter ‘extremely seriously’ and have also recently instructed Children’s Charity Barnado’s to carry out an independent investigation into allegations of historic racism at the club.
“To make comments such as ‘the sniff of money being in the air’ with regards to these claims, before knowing the full detail of each and every one, is quite alarming and disappointing.
“Comments questioning why these people, who were as young as 13, did not speak out at the time, suggests a complete lack of understanding of how people who are bullied, intimidated and abused are made to feel, and a total lack of understanding of these cases.
“Mr Bates is asking why people have not been identified and called for what has actually been alleged to be made clear. All of that information is being set out in legal claims.
“Most of all, to question the integrity of these men, who he admits he does not know who they are, and has not heard their exact allegations, we would consider to be premature.”