Football abuse claims: Ex-QPR player speaks out

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A former Queens Park Rangers footballer has said he was sexually assaulted by the club's ex-chief scout Chris Gieler.

The man anonymously told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme that Mr Gieler touched him on his genitals in the 1980s, when he was aged 15.

The west London club said it took allegations against Mr Gieler "very seriously".

The club's ex-chief scout died in 2002, shortly after leaving the club.

The ex-QPR player said that "everybody knew [Gieler] was a wrong'un, but nobody ever said anything".

Child sex abuse claims: The story so far

Football abuse claims: How loved ones reacted

It comes as the mother of a former youth team player at Crewe Alexandra told Victoria Derbyshire she wrote an anonymous letter to Dario Gradi - the club's director of football and former manager - saying it was "inappropriate" that a member of staff "took lots of boys into his room overnight" during a weekend away in Blackpool.

The mother, called Carole, said her son had told her there were not enough beds for the team.

In the letter, which she said she wrote in 1989-90, she did not allege any abuse had taken place, but did ask Mr Gradi to investigate.

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In a statement regarding these latest claims, Mr Gradi 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 historic[al] 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 historic[al] sexual abuse."

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

The FA - as part of its widened review into child sex abuse allegations - expects to interview Mr Gradi after a report of an incident in the Independent newspaper from his time at Chelsea.

The paper alleges that in 1974 - when he was Chelsea's assistant manager - Mr Gradi visited the parents of a 15 year-old youth team player at the club to "smooth over" a complaint of sexual assault against Eddie Heath, the chief scout who has been identified as a repeat offender in the 1970s.

No action is thought to have been taken against Heath, who is now dead, by Chelsea. Mr Gradi denies any wrongdoing.

'Slapped the hand'

The former QPR youth team player, speaking anonymously to the Victoria Derbyshire programme, said Mr Gieler "made a play" for him in a one-off incident in the 1980s, after he had been taken off early due to injury.

The man - who went on to play professionally at other clubs - added: "I had a sore groin - he came into the treatment room. I had an ice pack on my groin and he started touching that."

He said Mr Gieler put his hand directly on to his genitals, before he "slapped the hand out the way immediately" and swore at him to go away.

Mr Gieler was employed by QPR for about 30 years. In 1979, he became youth development manager, responsible for the entire youth programme.

The man said he did not speak out about the abuse at the time.

"We were 14, 15, 16," he said. "You're not going to come out and tell people - people would've said, 'You should've just knocked him out.'"

'Presents and gifts'

The former player describes Mr Gieler as "very touchy feely" and said he would place his hands on the boys' thighs.

"After a youth team game he'd come in and start talking to you in the shower," he added.

He said he was sure Mr Gieler "did much worse with some of the other boys" in comparison with his own experience.

A second anonymous former youth team player, at the club in the early 1980s, told the Victoria Derbyshire programme Mr Gieler "used to give boys presents and gifts".

The player - who went on to play professionally for several clubs - said Mr Gieler "was picking boys up and taking them out for evenings". He said he personally did not suffer abuse.

QPR 'co-operation'

In a statement on Tuesday, QPR said it would "co-operate fully in any forthcoming investigation".

It added that the club "has robust recruitment procedures and safeguarding policies in place to ensure the protection and welfare of both children and vulnerable adults, and we employ a full-time designated safeguarding manager who works across all areas of the club."

A total of 350 people have alleged they are victims and 55 amateur and professional football clubs are linked to allegations of abuse going back several decades.

A dedicated sexual abuse helpline has been set up by the NSPCC, supported by the FA.

The BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme is broadcast on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News channel.

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