Former Crewe Alexandra manager Dario Gradi has denied he is banned from all football activity.
Gradi was criticised in the Sheldon report over his handling of a complaint about youth coach Eddie Heath during his time at Chelsea and for failing to act on rumours and concerns expressed about serial abuser Barry Bennell at Crewe.
The Football Association’s chief executive Mark Bullingham said on Wednesday that the former Crewe boss remained suspended, and that he did not see that changing.
However, Gradi said in a statement that his suspension only relates to working with under-18s.
“I am disappointed by the Football Association’s public declaration that I am currently banned from football and ‘effectively banned from football for life’,” the statement read.
Sheldon Report: The key points
- Four-year review published into child sexual abuse in football between 1970 and 2005
- Evidence from 62 survivors and 157 further individuals
- Clive Sheldon QC: “Survivors deserve to be listened to, and their suffering deserves to be properly recognised”
- Sheldon: “It is important that this terrible history is not repeated”
- FA “did not act appropriately” following Barry Bennell’s release from prison in 2003
- Historical failures identified involving Chelsea, Aston Villa, Newcastle, Manchester City, Crewe Alexandra, Stoke, Peterborough, and Southampton
- By August 2020, Operation Hydrant had identified 240 suspects and 692 survivors
- Sheldon: “I do not want to give the impression that abuse in football was commonplace. It was not”
- Report makes 13 recommendations, including publishing safeguarding report every year
“This has since been reiterated in the media in which the FA chief executive states that I am banned from all football-related activity. I would like to make it clear that this is not the case.
“I am suspended indefinitely from certain specified activities with players under the age of 18 years and whilst I do not agree with it I understand how the decision was arrived at.”
In response to the statement, the FA have told Sky Sports News that Gradi is banned from involvement in U18s football. The FA are not commenting on whether Gradi can work in the adult game.
Gradi apologised for not “recognising the signs of abuse” in relation to Bennell, who was jailed for 31 years in 2018 for abusing young footballers and was described by the sentencing judge as “the devil incarnate”.
He declared himself “satisfied” that Sheldon had found that he had not acted inappropriately on any occasion when boys stayed at his home, or in any other setting.
He also took issue with media reporting of a section of the report about what constituted assault.
The Sheldon report stated: “When discussing the scope of allegations of abuse generally, Dario Gradi explained that he did not consider a person putting their hands down another’s trousers to be an assault. I informed him that it was and he then accepted that.”
Gradi said in his statement: “I was uncertain of the definition of what can amount to an assault and when Mr Sheldon clarified this I corrected myself.
“Under no circumstances do I condone or excuse the behaviour of placing hands beneath the clothing of another or believe that it is anything other than wrong and unlawful.”
For further information about child abuse, sexual abuse, or exploitation, for either you or someone close to you, please see the list of organisations listed in the child abuse section on Sky’s Viewer Support page.