Any football club found to have paid off alleged victims of sexual abuse to keep them from going public with their accusations will be punished by the Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn.
Chelsea have not commented on accusations of paying compensation on the condition of confidentiality to a former youth-team player who says he was sexually assaulted by now-deceased former chief scout Eddie Heath.
Glenn said the FA would punish clubs “if there’s been any evidence of a breach of rules and regulations — hushing up would be one — subject to due process.
“The police need to be in the right place in this. When it’s our turn to apply the rules we absolutely will from top to bottom regardless of the size of a club.
“If the FA has made errors, we’ll own up to them as must the rest of football if avoidable errors have been made.”
The FA has appointed QC Kate Gallafent to lead an internal inquiry into its handling of the issue.
According to the National Police Chiefs’ Council, about 350 victims have reported sexual abuse within UK football clubs while the NSPCC says more than 860 people have called the dedicated football hotline it set up a week ago.
“I can’t say whether there’s been a cover up in the game,” said Glenn. “I doubt it. The FA has, since the late 90s, taken safeguarding extremely seriously, we wrote it into the standard chartered rules that there should be officers.
“These crimes are a combination of motive and opportunity and I think the opportunity is much less than it was 20 years ago.”