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Lawyer slams ‘hypocritical’ Chelsea for failing to admit liability in case of racist ex-coach’s abuse of youth team players

Lawyer slams ‘hypocritical’ Chelsea for failing to admit liability in case of racist ex-coach’s abuse of youth team players
Chelsea have been accused of "hypocrisy" for appearing to fight accusations that youth team players were targeted with abuse by ex-coach Gwyn Williams, leading to the club being referred to as a "mini Apartheid state".

An independent inquiry found in 2019 that numerous young black players – some as young as 12 – were victimized in a culture of racial abuse at the Premier League club during the 1990s, with former youth coach Williams unleashing a "daily tirade of racist abuse", according to the findings of the inquiry. 

Chelsea announced that they accepted the findings of the inquiry without question and offered players who had been caught up in the racist abuse counselling, while also issuing a full public apology. 

Legal counsel representing several of the victims, however, has hit out at the club for so-called "hypocrisy" after saying that Chelsea contacted Williams for evidence as opposed to admitting liability. 

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"In 2019, Chelsea Football Club publicly apologized to former youth team players abused in their care. This included clients represented by this firm who were subjected to what the Barnardo’s Report describes as 'targeted racial abuse' by Gwyn Williams," announced Emma Ferguson, of Bolt Burdon Kemp, in a statement via The Athletic. 

"The language used by Williams towards our clients in the 1990s was racist, dehumanising and had long lasting, detrimental effects on their mental health.

"Details of the abuse were recently reported in The Athletic following writer Daniel Taylor’s attendance at a public hearing relating to one of the cases.

"Our clients are, therefore, disappointed that Chelsea Football Club have changed their position in the civil courts. Rather than seeking to make reparations to our clients for this harm, Chelsea FC is relying on witness evidence from Williams stating that he 'would never use these words today' and there was 'no malicious intention…[or] intention to cause harm'.

"This excuse is too often used to justify racist abuse towards the Black community and as a means to deny their lived experiences. It does nothing to address the harm and ongoing trauma caused to the victims of racist abuse – especially in our clients’ cases when they were just children and the abuse was being inflicted on them by those in positions of trust.

"We at Bolt Burdon Kemp are of the clear view that Williams' conduct was racist abuse then and is racist abuse now. Chelsea FC’s hypocrisy in appearing to support Black lives in public whilst refusing to support Black victims of racist abuse in seeking the justice they deserve simply aggravates our clients’ pain and suffering. We hope that the club reconsiders its position going forward."

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Williams, who was formerly in charge of Chelsea's academy before moving to Leeds United, has denied that he engaged in any form of racial abuse – and said that any allegations which suggest the opposite are untrue.

"My client’s position remains, as stated, that he denies all and any allegations of racial or other abuse,” Williams' solicitor, Eddie Johns, said. "His position throughout is that his actions were not abusive, and I believe that is the position reflected in his statement."

Chelsea, meanwhile, declined to comment on the issue when contacted by The Athletic, stating that it would be inappropriate to do so while the case remains before the courts.

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