Dario Gradi

Dario Gradi took charge of Crewe in 1983

A former Crewe Alexandra employee claims that in 2001 he was asked by a senior official at the club to help wipe pornography off the home computer of then-manager Dario Gradi, the BBC has learned.

According to a statement given to the NSPCC in 2011, the man – who does not want to be identified – was told that Gradi had been hosting a group of young Irish Under-13 players at his house and they had been viewing the material on his computer.

He says he was “amazed” that Gradi was allowed to host boys “in this manner”, especially after Crewe’s former youth coach Barry Bennell had been convicted of child sex crimes in 1994 – and again in 1998.

The man told the NSPCC “it all seemed odd” and he raised his concerns with the club’s chairman John Bowler, but he dismissed the behaviour as “quirky and nothing more”.

In 2011 the former employee reported his “concerns” about the alleged incident – which occurred in July 2001 – to the NSPCC and also spoke to Cheshire police.

In November 2016 after fresh allegations were made about Bennell, the former employee contacted the NSPCC for a second time, and again spoke to the police.

In a statement, Cheshire Police told the BBC: “In December 2012 Cheshire Police received reports regarding concerns about material on a computer.

“Following enquiries, it was established that no criminal activity had taken place. The person who made the report was updated at the time.”

When approached by the BBC and asked to confirm what steps to safeguard young players had been taken after Bennell’s 1994 and 1998 convictions, Crewe declined to comment.

Earlier this month, former Manchester City and Crewe coach Bennell was found guilty of 50 counts of historical child sexual abuse and sentenced to 31 years in prison.

Gradi – now director of football – was suspended by the FA in late 2016.

He and Crewe have always maintained they did not know about any abuse by Bennell until allegations surfaced in 1994, and did not receive a complaint of sexual abuse by him.

The informant – who is now aged 47 and no longer works in football – has now approached the FA’s independent Sheldon Inquiry into allegations of child sex abuse in football.

In a statement, the NSPCC said: “We would not confirm details of whether a specific contact was made to our helpline, because the service enables adults to report in confidence any concerns or worries they have about a child.

“However, we refer any contacts that indicate a child is at risk or in danger to local authorities such as police or social services, as we did with almost three quarters of the 66,218 calls our helpline received last year.”

News Reporter

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