Former Crewe boss Dario Gradi denies being banned from all football activity

Jamie Gardner, PA Chief Sports Reporter
·2-min read

Dario Gradi insists he is not 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.

Mark Bullingham Handout Photo
FA boss Mark Bullingham said Gradi remained banned from all football-related activity (PA Media)

However, Gradi said in a statement that his suspension since 2016 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.

“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.”

The PA news agency understands Gradi is correct in his assertion his suspension is limited to involvement with under-18s football.

When asked on Thursday why Gradi had been suspended, the FA’s director of legal and governance Polly Handford said: “Where someone is removed from football for safeguarding reasons, that will be because we have seen there has been an assessment that the particular individual could potentially pose a risk of harm to children.”

Barry Bennell
Barry Bennell was described by one judge as ‘the devil incarnate’ (PA Media)

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.”