Crewe Alexandra have confirmed 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 League Two club stated on their website: “Following discussions with the Football Association, Crewe Alexandra can confirm that Dario Gradi is currently under an FA interim suspension from football.”
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.’”
Chelsea are not known to have taken any action and Gradi has made no specific comments on this claim or his links with Heath.
In a statement last 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 inquiry into historical sexual abuse.”
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.
Despite failing to win any major honours in his management career, Gradi developed a reputation as a fine coach of young players, primarily at Crewe Alexandra.
Born in Milan, Italy, he came to the UK as a child after the Second World War and went on to play football at non-league level, before becoming Chelsea assistant coach in 1971, aged 29.
He remained at the London club until 1976, before returning to Sutton United, who he used to play for.
Following spells as manager of Wimbledon and Crystal Palace, he began an association with Crewe in 1983 that now spans 33 years.
He was manager from 1983 to 2007, leading the team 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.
Crewe’s 11th-placed finish in their first year in the second tier remains the highest finish in the club’s history.
During Gradi’s tenure, the club won the PFA Bobby Moore Fair Play Trophy 12 times in 15 years.
Having had a spell as director of football, Gradi had a second stint as manager from 2009 to 2011 before returning to the overseeing role he still occupies.
In 2013, aged 72, Gradi became the oldest person appointed to Greg Dyke’s FA commission charged with improving English football from the grassroots upwards.
Described by the National Football Museum as “one of English football’s best developers of young players”, Gradi’s tenure at Crewe has seen internationals David Platt, Geoff Thomas, Danny Murphy, Seth Johnson, Robbie Savage and Dean Ashton emerge.
The National Football Museum inducted Gradi into its Hall of Fame in 2004, and he was given the Football League’s outstanding contribution to football award in 2011.
The FA is supporting a hotline set up by the NSPCC. It is available 24 hours a day on 0800 0232642.
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