England hero Sir Geoff Hurst’s position as an FA ambassador and McDonald’s representative is under threat after he was condemned for his reluctance to be formally interviewed by the inquiry team looking into child abuse at Chelsea.
Clive Sheldon QC last week published his long-awaited four-year investigation into sexual abuse in football between 1970 to 2005 and pointedly drew attention to the fact that England’s World Cup hat-trick hero had declined to be formally interviewed by Chelsea’s own inquiry into sexual abuse crimes committed by Eddie Heath, a chief scout sacked by Hurst in 1979, during Hurst’s time as Chelsea manager.
Both Charles Geekie, who led the Chelsea inquiry, and Sheldon, who investigated abuse across football, have drawn attention to Hurst’s failure to meet formally with the inquiry team and pointed to gaps in the evidence as a result.
Sir Geoff Hurst’s position as an FA ambassador and McDonald’s representative is under threat
England’s World Cup hat-trick hero (centre) had declined to be formally interviewed by Chelsea’s own inquiry into sexual abuse crimes
Sir Geoff has insisted he had no relevant information and that he spoke to the Geekie inquiry team by phone twice and left a voicemail. But survivors of Heath’s abusive regime say they consider it an insult that Hurst wouldn’t find the time to meet investigators.
Gary Johnson, who was abused by Heath as a schoolboy and who has waived his right to anonymity, said: ‘I find it abhorrent that someone in his position and someone people look up to doesn’t want to get involved and couldn’t find the time to speak formally to an inquiry.
‘For someone to be manager and then sack the chief scout, now well known for being a paedophile, I would like to know, and I’m sure all the other victims at Chelsea would like to know, what is the reason you sacked him?
‘I don’t think he should be an FA McDonald’s ambassador. I don’t think you can have your cake and eat it. He’s got to give his version. It’s no skin off his nose. It’s an insult to the victims and their families not just at Chelsea but at every club.’
Sir Geoff has insisted that he had no relevant information and that he spoke to the Geekie inquiry team
Eamonn Manners, also abused by Heath and who has also waived his right to anonymity to speak out, said: ‘I am surprised he didn’t cooperate. My view is that anyone who is asked to engage should do so. It’s as simple as that.’
Chelsea held their own inquiry into Heath’s predatory behaviour, led by Geekie QC, who was eager to speak to Sir Geoff because he had sacked Heath as chief scout. Hurst has always maintained that he sacked Heath because he wasn’t good at his job but the Geekie inquiry, which reported in 2019, said ‘this appeared to be at odds with a number of comments by witnesses that (whatever criticisms there may be of his sexual conduct) Mr Heath was a good and effective scout. The Review Team [the Geekie inquiry team] wished to explore this with Sir Geoff.’
Geekie’s team wrote to Sir Geoff three times, including once with a covering letter from club chairman Bruce Buck and the final time ‘stressing the importance of the issue’ and need for an interview.
Hurst has always maintained that he sacked Eddie Heath because he wasn’t good at his job
Sheldon’s report drew attention to a lack of formal cooperation by Hurst. ‘The Geekie Review Team was not able to carry out an interview with Geoff Hurst as he did not want to be interviewed,’ wrote Sheldon. ‘It is noted in the Geekie Report that “there remains an unsatisfactory gap in the evidence that has been made available to the Review”. I agree with that statement.’
On Saturday, Sir Geoff said: ‘Within the first six months of my tenure at Chelsea I sacked Eddie Heath from his position at the club. It was purely a footballing decision as, in my opinion, he wasn’t fulfilling his role correctly.
‘Whilst I have incredible sympathy for his victims, neither at that time, nor subsequently, did I have any knowledge regarding his abuse of the young players at the club. It came as a complete shock to me at the time of the inquest.
‘When it emerged into the public arena, I was in Phoenix, Arizona, and I was interviewed three times, each time explaining that I had no knowledge whatsoever of the situation. In actual fact, right up until the inquest of a few years ago, I knew nothing untoward had ever occurred. To say that I was not interviewed at the time the allegations arose is incorrect.
Clive Sheldon QC’s report drew attention to a lack of formal cooperation by Hurst
‘I explained the situation, which remains the same today as then. At no time were there rumours from the club, any of the players or the coaching staff regarding Eddie Heath. The revelations came as a complete shock to me.
‘To reiterate, I at no time had any knowledge of the situation and therefore have not had anything more substantive to say but I must emphasise I feel incredible sorrow for the victims.’
The FA and McDonald’s declined to comment.