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Former Chelsea player claims club paid for his silence on sexual abuse

A former footballer has said that he was paid thousands of pounds to keep quiet about sexual abuse that he suffered as a boy at Chelsea. This is the latest revelation in a growing scandal that has hit English football.

Former Chelsea player Gary Johnson told the English tabloid "The Mirror" that the Premier League club paid him £50,000 (59,000 euros, $63,000) not to go public with his allegations that he had been sexually abused by former chief scout Eddie Heath, who is now dead.

"I think that they were paying me to keep a lid on this," he said.

In the report, published in the paper's online edition on Friday, the now 57-year-old Johnson, who joined the club as an 11-year-old boy and eventually turned professional, said Chelsea had now waived the confidentiality clause in his settlement.

"All their fans deserve to know the truth about what went on," he said. "I know they asked me to sign a gagging order and how many others are there out there? They may have paid others for their silence. I hope and pray no clubs are allowed to cover this up - no one should escape justice."

Earlier this week it had been reported that Chelsea had made a payment to an individual following allegations made against Eddie Heath.

External law firm to investigate

Chelsea responded to the allegations with a statement in which it said it had hired an external law firm to carry out "an investigation concerning an individual employed by the club in the 1970s, who is now deceased."

"The club has also contacted the FA to ensure that all possible assistance is provided as part of their wider investigation. This will include providing the FA with any relevant information arising out of the club's investigation."

The chief executive of the  Football Association, Martin Glenn, has said any club guilty of "hushing up" sexual abuse to protect their image would be punished.

Growing scandal

Johnson's allegations come a day after the National Police Chiefs' Council announced that around 350 people had come forward to report being abused as children at football clubs in England between the 1970s and the 1990s.

According to the Council, this figure was based on existing investigations and a new helpline set up by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which said the helpline had received 860 calls in its first week of operation.

The scale of the scandal began to emerge last weekafter former players Andy Woodward, Steve Walters and Paul Stewart revealed the abuse they had suffered at the hands of youth coaches.

Convicted child molester Barry Bennell has been accused by several footballers of abusing them when he worked for Crewe Alexandra, Manchester City and Stoke City over three decades beginning in the 1970s. On Tuesday, he was charged with eight counts of child abuse.

The scandal comes as the country is still reeling from apedophile scandal involving BBC television star Jimmy Savile,who is believed to have used his fame to gain access to and abuse hundreds of children over a period of six decades. His alleged crimes only came to light after his death in 2011 at the age of 84.

pfd/ftm (AFP, Reuters)

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