Dario Gradi, the director of football at Crewe - the club at the centre of the football sexual abuse scandal - has been suspended by the English FA.
Gradi, who spent more than 30 years in senior roles at Crewe, has been ordered to step down pending an investigation by the football authorities after claims that he visited the parents of a Chelsea youth-team player to "smooth over" a complaint of sexual assault against Eddie Heath, the chief scout who has been identified as a repeat offender in the 1970s.
Gradi will be asked for his version of events after being identified as the man Chelsea sent to deal with a complaint that Heath had indecently assaulted the boy, then 15.
The 75-year-old Gradi, then in his early-30s, was the assistant manager at Chelsea at the time. He is said to have told the victim’s family that he knew Heath was “closer” to boys than he should have been. Chelsea never took any action against Heath and the FA’s independent inquiry, among a wide-ranging investigation expected to take many months, wants to interview Gradi about what the club knew, what they did about it and whether there was a cover-up.The investigation will be led by the QC Clive Sheldon.
In November, Gradi issued a statement but did not respond to the specific allegations. “Aside from denying any wrongdoing, it would be inappropriate and unfair on all parties to comment piecemeal through the media at this time in connection with historic allegations. Suffice to say, I will do everything within my power to assist all investigatory authorities into what is becoming a wide-ranging and important enquiry into historic sexual abuse.”
A spokesman for Crewe followed that up last Tuesday by saying Gradi would “fully co-operate with the FA”. Crewe have opened an independent investigation into how it has dealt with child sexual abuse allegations.
As allegations continue to emerge north of the border, Scotland's deputy first minister has called on the Scottish Football Association (SFA) to set up an inquiry into historical child abuse.
John Swinney told the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland programme that, while Police Scotland must be given time to investigate individual complaints, the SFA should consider an independent review.
“I think the SFA should recognise the extent of the actions that various clubs have taken individually to examine previous conduct in handling these issues. But I think the existence of that information is now so widespread that I think the SFA has got to consider setting up an independent inquiry that will satisfy that these issues have been properly and fully addressed by everyone in football.”
The SFA plans to hold a meeting with Police Scotland on Monday to discuss the growing extent of the allegations.
Last week, the Scottish Premiership club Patrick Thistle admitted firing one of their employees in 1992 over abuse claims. He also worked for Motherwell, which announced its own probe on Friday. This followed revelations concerning a former youth coach for Celtic, Hibernian and Falkirk football clubs, who was last Wednesday charged with a child sex offence in Northern Ireland, and has been remanded in custody.
The SFA is also expected to meet with the child abuse advocacy group White Flowers Alba.