Former Chelsea coaches deny bullying and racism claims
Chelsea's former youth coach Graham Rix and ex-chief scout Gwyn Williams have denied "all and any allegations of racial or other abuse" after they were the subject of shocking allegations in a Guardian newspaper article.
Published on Friday, the article claims that three former youth-team players at Chelsea have launched legal claims against the club as a result of their treatment by Rix and Williams during the 1990s.
The claims have already been investigated by the police and no further action was taken, but they are still being looked at by the club and the Football Association.
In a statement, the pair's lawyer Eddie Johns said: "Our clients deny all and any allegations of racial or other abuse.
"These allegations were the subject of a thorough investigation by specialist officers of the Metropolitan Police Service. The MPS did not consider there was sufficient evidence even to report it to the Crown Prosecution Service. Our clients cooperated with that investigation.
"The allegations in the Guardian newspaper are contained, as we understand it, within correspondence sent to Chelsea Football Club. That correspondence has not been seen by our clients or by us.
"No correspondence has been sent to our clients or us by these individuals or those representing them. We will of course deal with any allegations if made directly to our clients. Our clients are cooperating fully with the FA in this matter."
The story broke just before Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte's pre-match press conference for Saturday's game at home to Leicester, forcing the club's director of communications Steve Atkins to intervene with a statement.
"I can't answer specifically to the story you mentioned," said Atkins, in response to a reporter's question.
"What I can say is that we take allegations of this nature extremely seriously, we are absolutely determined to do the right thing, to fully support those affected and assist the authorities and support their investigations. That's all I can say."
The allegations reported by the Guardian are remarkable as they paint a bleak picture of almost constant racial abuse towards young black players, bullying and violence.
According to the paper, Rix also threw a cup of hot coffee in the face of one of the players and left one of the complainants with a bleeding nose after throwing a ball at him.
As referenced by their lawyer, the paper reports that the matter was investigated by the police for seven months but it was decided there was insufficient evidence to proceed.
Since then, however, two of the players are understood to have been interviewed by the FA's safeguarding team.
When asked for the latest on that investigation, an FA spokesperson said: "The FA is not in a position to comment on this matter."
The 60-year-old Rix joined the west London club in 1993 as a youth coach but served as assistant manager under Ruud Gullit and his successor Gianluca Vialli from 1996 to 1999.
In 1999 he was sentenced to 12 months in prison for indecent assault and unlawful sex with a 15-year-old girl. Chelsea, however, reinstated him after he was released, having served six months, and he was first-team coach when the Stamford Bridge club won the FA Cup in 2000.
The former Arsenal and England midfielder left the club soon after and had spells in charge at Portsmouth, Oxford and Hearts, before coaching at the Glenn Hoddle Academy and a short stint with a team in Trinidad.
His last job was at AFC Portchester in the Wessex League Premier Division but he left last August.
Williams is perhaps less well-known but he was a prominent figure at Chelsea for more than two decades.
Now 68, he joined as a scout in 1979, climbing the ranks until he became assistant manager to Claudio Ranieri and a senior scout under Jose Mourinho. He is credited with discovering Jason Cundy and John Terry and spotting Tore Andre Flo in Norwegian football.
Close to former Chelsea owner Ken Bates, Williams followed him to Leeds in 2006 and became their technical director. He was sacked by the west Yorkshire club in 2013 for gross misconduct after emailing pornographic images to a number of colleagues, including a female receptionist.
Chelsea are already conducting a separate investigation into claims of historic sexual abuse by a former chief scout Eddie Heath, who is now dead, in the 1970s.