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Former Chelsea ref facing allegations of child abuse

The latest accusations follow claims against the club’s former head scout
(Getty)

Chelsea Football Club is today facing new scrutiny over child abuse in the 1970s, after an investigation by The Independent revealed a second man who worked for the club sexually assaulted boys in their youth set-up. Four separate witnesses have claimed they were abused by Allan McGrath, who worked as a referee for Chelsea’s youth-team games.

Two of the witnesses have described being driven to McGrath’s home when in the Chelsea youth set-up and being sexually assaulted there. Both had been promised lifts home from youth matches when they ended up at the house McGrath – who is now dead – shared with his elderly mother in Ashford, Middlesex.

One of the witnesses described McGrath as a friend of Eddie Heath, the former chief scout who ex-Chelsea player Gary Johnson told the club had abused him in the 1970s. Johnson was subsequently paid £50,000 compensation by Chelsea for the abuse he suffered, in an arrangement which included a non-disclosure clause.

One of the former youth-team players described McGrath driving him in his white Audi car to the house at Metcalf Road, Ashford, Middlesex. The witness said: “On the first occasion we went to his house, his mother was there and nothing happened. But the second time, she wasn’t and what seemed to be an act of generosity turned into him touching, which was not right. I shook him off and that was the end to it.” A second witness, who also played for Chelsea’s youth team, said: “I was at the house and looking around when he put his hands on my genitals. It caught me by surprise and it was from behind so I couldn’t react in time to stop it happening.”

Chelsea have said they cannot comment on specific cases and urged any further alleged victims to speak to them or to the Metropolitan Police. The Football Association also declined to comment on whether they knew of McGrath or whether he was registered with them. But with the known number of Heath’s alleged victims already six, Chelsea are facing a possible multi-million-pound claim for damages.

It is unclear whether McGrath was employed full-time by Chelsea. He is remembered by two witnesses for standing in as a referee during summer matches. The Independent has spoken to more than 20 witnesses in Ashford who knew McGrath and who described him as having a number of jobs over a period of 20 years, including as a chauffeur, a school-coach driver and a warden at the HM Prison Feltham Young Offender Institution.

A further two witnesses, one of whom has waived his anonymity to speak to The Independent, described being abused by McGrath, who was then working as coach at Staines United FC, in Middlesex. Steve Hearn, 58, who lives in Ashford, was eventually spotted by a Chelsea scout and was on the fringes of the squad, as a contemporary of Ray Wilkins, Steve Finnieston and Clive Walker.

But it was while a 12-year-old playing for Staines United under-15s that he encountered McGrath, who was then in his late 20s. “First impressions were that he seemed a lovely chap and personable,” said Mr Hearn. “He was a ‘do-anything-for-you’ type of bloke. He loved his football and at that age that resonates with you. He was really enthusiastic. But we used to do a raffle thing for the club selling tickets to other players’ parents on a weekday night. He asked players to accompany him and he picked up on me.” He added: “Mum and dad agreed and I went round there on Monday nights before selling tickets to other mums and dads. To drop me off, he pulled up around the bottom of my road and that’s where it started. He started asking, ‘have you got girlfriends yet?’ I was only 11 or 12 years old, but I sort of bullshitted that I had girlfriends. He asked, ‘have you used a Durex?’”

Mr Hearn says McGrath pressed this question repeatedly and ended up persuading the boy that it was an important part of his sexual education to have him attempt to put a condom on his penis, so he consented. “It was always at the same spot when he dropped me off,” he said. “It would have been dark, in the football season in about September or October time, at 8.30pm or 8.45pm. It was a very clever and manipulative way to touch me. It was the first time I had experienced anything down there. It was very strange. I don’t know if he was touching himself at the same time or just enjoying the pleasure of touching me.” He added: “He alternated players each week to go around with him and two weeks later he tried it again with me, the exact same thing. On the third time I said, ‘I don’t think this is right’, and he stopped. From then on I didn’t go out with him so often and he dropped me as a Monday night helper.”

When Mr Hearn joined the Chelsea set-up a year later, he became aware that McGrath was working there as a referee, though there was no contact between the two at the club. Another witness, who is now in his late 50s and declined to be named, alleged that McGrath tried to sexually assault him at Ashford Juniors FC in the 1970s while working there as a referee. Ashford Juniors has since been dissolved and has no links with current clubs in the town.

“I can tell you from personal experience he tried it on with people,” said the witness. “I was strong enough at 14 or 15 to tell him, ‘it ain’t happening’. I was not the only one. There were loads and loads of people. He would offer you a lift to the club on a Saturday or Sunday. It was one of those pressure tactics where he pretended to be your friend.”

Staines United has also been dissolved and has no link to Staines Town FC. The Metropolitan Police said it would not discuss individual cases but said its investigation is continuing.