Director at Crewe suspended amid British sex abuse inquiry

Pete Norton/Getty Images

CREWE, England (AP) One of the most respected soccer managers in England has been suspended amid a widening investigation into sexual abuse by youth coaches in Britain.

[ MORE: Top PL goals of Week 15 ]

Dario Gradi, who was honored by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998 for services to the game, has temporarily stepped aside as director of football at Crewe Alexandra, the fourth-tier club said Monday.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Week 16 PL picks ]

The Italian-born Gradi was manager of Crewe across two spells between 1983-2011, establishing the northern club as a center for turning raw talent and rejects into top-flight players, mainly via its envied youth academy. He was previously an assistant coach at Chelsea.

In a statement, Crewe said that following discussions with the English Football Association, the 75-year-old Gradi was “under an FA interim suspension from football.”

Chelsea recently apologized to a former player who said he was sexually abused repeatedly every week by youth-team coach Eddie Heath from the age of 13 until he was 16 or 17. Heath is now dead.

Gradi worked at Chelsea at that time. British newspaper The Independent reported last week that Gradi went to see the parents of a Chelsea youth player in 1974 regarding a sexual assault.

Crewe’s brief statement didn’t go into detail about the reasons behind Gradi’s suspension.

Crewe launched a review last month into how they dealt with child abuse allegations in the 1980s and `90s, one of the many developments in a fast-moving and countrywide scandal sparked by former professionals going public about the ordeals they went through as youngsters.

According to figures released by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, 98 clubs spanning all levels of the game have been impacted by the scandal. A children’s charity, the NSPCC and local police forces have referred more than 600 reports to Operation Hydrant, the national co-ordination hub for child abuse allegations.

In a statement before his suspension, Gradi said he would do “everything within my power to assist all investigatory authorities.”