Dario Gradi: Crewe Alexandra director suspended pending FA investigation

Dario Gradi

Dario Gradi was the manager of Crewe from 1983 to 2007

Crewe Alexandra director Dario Gradi has been suspended pending a Football Association investigation that will include looking into claims he “smoothed over” a complaint of sexual assault against a Chelsea scout in the 1970s.

A former youth player at Chelsea – where Gradi was assistant manager – says he was assaulted by Eddie Heath, the club’s chief scout, when he was 15.

Gradi, 75, denies any wrongdoing and says he will help the FA’s review.

Heath, who has since died, has been accused by several people of abuse in the 1970s and 1980s.

The BBC understands that the FA, as part of its widened review into child sex abuse allegations, expects to question Gradi after the Independent reported that, in 1974, he went to see the parents of a youth player at Chelsea about a sexual assault.

The former youth player – who cannot be identified for legal reasons – told the newspaper: “He [Gradi] came to visit my parents and me to smooth it over.

“I remember him saying something like: ‘[With] Eddie, [football] is his life and he gets a bit close to the boys. I’m sorry if he’s overstepped the mark in his fondness this time.'”

  • Child sex abuse claims: The story so far

Chelsea are not known to have taken any action against Heath.

Gradi has made no specific comments on this claim or his links with Heath.

In a statement on Friday, he said: “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 historical 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 historical sexual abuse.”

League Two club Crewe Alexandra have not yet responded to a request for comment.

The FA has given no indication about who will be spoken to as part of its review.

Gradi has previously said he “knew nothing” about the alleged abuse of young footballers by anyone connected with Crewe until 1994 and that he then co-operated with the authorities.

Italy-born Gradi began an association with Crewe Alexandra in 1983 that now spans 33 years.

He was the club’s manager from 1983 to 2007, leading them to the second tier of English football for the first time in 1997 and was awarded an MBE for services to football a year later.

The FA is supporting a hotline set up by the NSPCC. It is available 24 hours a day on 0800 0232642.