Ex-QPR employee Chris Gieler named in abuse inquiry

QPR stadium Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption QPR football club said it would "co-operate fully in any forthcoming investigation"

Queens Park Rangers football club have said they are aware of historical child abuse allegations made against former employee Chris Gieler.

The west London Championship club said it "takes these allegations very seriously" and would "co-operate fully in any forthcoming investigation".

Mr Gieler died in 2002, shortly after leaving the club.

He was employed by QPR for about 30 years, working in youth development and as chief scout.

Mr Gieler arrived at Loftus Road in 1971 as a schoolboy scout and in 1979 he became youth development manager, responsible for the entire youth programme.

Child sex abuse claims: The story so far

The club's announcement came as the Football Association announced that the internal review into child sexual abuse allegations in football would be led by Clive Sheldon QC.

A total of 450 people have alleged they are victims and 55 amateur and professional football clubs are linked to allegations of abuse going back several decades.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has become the latest force to confirm it is investigating claims, so there are now 21 police forces looking into reports.

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Media captionBilly Seymour says he's self-medicated with drink and drugs and been to prison three times

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

Abuse review

In a statement, QPR said: "Any form of abuse has no place in football or society.

"QPR 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."

The club said it had had someone responsible for safeguarding in place since 2011, in line with FA, Premier League and Football League guidelines.

Earlier, former Premier League manager Harry Redknapp told the BBC that "rumours" that ex-Southampton coach Bob Higgins may have abused young players in the 1980s had been "rife" for years.

He said that, because of this, he was "amazed" that Mr Higgins, who is facing fresh allegations of historical sexual abuse, had continued to be involved in football.

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Image caption Harry Redknapp says rumours about Bob Higgins had been "rife"

Former Southampton youth player and ex-professional footballer Billy Seymour told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme that he had been abused by Mr Higgins from the age of 12 to 14.

He said that because of this he had "self-medicated" with drink and drugs, and said he had been to prison three times for "anger issues".

"My life has been chaos really, over the last 20 years," he said.

"I'm just hoping now I can start opening up and start living."

Mr Seymour told the BBC that the abuse "started with grooming and preferential treatment, coming round and picking me up, taking me to scouting missions, gifts, tracksuits, aftershave".

He said he would stay at Mr Higgins' house, where he said the former coach would walk into his bedroom late at night, or would invite him into his bedroom in the morning, and touch his "groin area".

Mr Higgins has previously denied all allegations and was acquitted of sexual abuse charges in 1992.

The BBC has been unable to contact him for comment.

Meanwhile, the FA has published the full terms of reference of its review, which covers what was known and what actions were taken by the FA from the 1970s.

The FA said the precise number of players, alleged abusers and clubs it would investigate was as yet unknown.

Gagging orders

Separately, a lawyer representing a new body supporting victims said "calls and emails are coming in all the time" from players claiming to have been forced to sign non-disclosure agreements with clubs in return for compensation.

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Media captionEdward Smethurst: "It seems entirely inappropriate for such clauses to be used"

He told the BBC such clauses would seem "entirely inappropriate" for an issue such as the abuse of children, but said that the victims coming forward had named "several" clubs as using them.

The claims come after Chelsea FC apologised to former player Gary Johnson for the abuse he suffered as a trainee in the 1970s, having waived the confidentiality clause in a £50,000 agreement they made with him last year.

Who is Bob Higgins?

Image caption Bob Higgins was acquitted of sexual abuse charges in 1992

In April 1989, Bob Higgins was dismissed by Southampton FC, where he worked as a youth coach, after several allegations were made against him.

He had set up The Bob Higgins Soccer Academy, but on 27 April 1989 the Football League sent a letter to all football clubs warning that it was "opposed to the activities" of the group.

In May 1995, Mr Higgins joined Peterborough United as a youth coach. He left in April 1996 by mutual consent.

After spending some time working in Malta he was appointed manager of the non-league side Bashley FC, until he was sacked in 2001.

After Bashley he briefly worked at Winchester City where he operated in an "advisory role" for the senior team.

He later landed a coaching role with Fleet Town FC on an "informal, unpaid basis", but has since left. Fleet Town said his role did not involve working with children.

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