Rix hints at 'true story', but judge in 1999 gave damning summation of behaviour

MUCH has been said and written about Graham Rix's appointment at Tynecastle with the more vocal Hearts supporters making clear their anger.

While the club's new first-team coach was afforded a hostile reception on his arrival in Gorgie on Tuesday, many in the game have since come to his defence. Pat Nevin, Wallace Mercer, Ray Wilkins, and Eamonn Bannon have all called for Rix to be given a chance at Hearts. Their message has been simple: he's done his time, now let him get on with his life.

Rix said he was disappointed by the initial reaction of the fans and suggested they did not know the background to why he was sentenced to 12 months in prison in 1999 for sex with a 15-year-old girl.

Rix, who served six months in Wandsworth, said: "I know the true story that I've never ever said." In an interview two years ago he said there were "mitigating circumstances" and he has spoken about writing a book, but none has appeared so far.

All we have are the facts of a court case which saw Rix plead guilty to indecently assaulting a 15-year-old girl and having unlawful sex with her. He denied two further charges of indecent assault, both of which were ordered to lie on the file.

Rix, who was assistant manager of Chelsea at the time, admitted that he had sex with the girl in February 1998 at a west London hotel in which his team were staying before the following day's game against Manchester United.

Speaking before delivering sentence at Knightsbridge Crown Court on 26 March, 1999, Judge Timothy Pontius said: "These offences took place when she was only weeks short of her 16th birthday, the age of consent, yet at the time of the offences she was a virgin, plainly a girl who was undoubtedly like any other, flattered by the attentions of a man who was a celebrity, attended by the glamour of fame and success."

Rix, who was separated from his wife at the time, first met the girl in August 1997 as she was playing street football with her brother in west London. Over the next few months they met several times. Rix invited her to his flat where he gave her wine and kissed her. Rix's defence counsel claimed the girl told the former England international that she was above the age of consent. "If she had not lied about her age Mr Rix would not be in the dock," said Desmond de Silva, QC.

But the prosecution said Rix, a father of four, knew she was only 15 because when he was telling her about the 1982 World Cup, in which he played, she told him that was when she was born, although then tried to cover up her mistake.

On 27 February, 1998, after a telephone call from the girl, Rix invited her to the hotel room where he was staying on the eve of Chelsea's match with Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. They had a glass of wine and a whirlpool bath together and then lay down on the bed. Rix turned on the television where a pornographic film was showing.

They had intercourse and the girl asked Rix if he was going to use a contraceptive. It was claimed in court that Rix said: "I don't do that. Using a condom is like having a bath with your clothes on." The next morning Rix gave her 20 for a taxi home and told her not to tell anyone about what happened.

Later that day the girl rang her doctor and arranged to get the morning-after pill. She decided to end the relationship with Rix and phoned him to tell him. He agreed but said that they should meet one more time. She called but he said he had a big game to prepare for. The next time she tried his telephone was off. Speaking in court, Laura Cobbs, for the prosecution, said: "She felt used and told her parents what had happened."

Judge Pontius warned Rix that the case would bring personal and professional disgrace. He said of the girl that while she was mature for her age, like other teenage girls she was desperate to act and be treated like an adult. "That is where the real danger and thus the real gravity of such cases lie," the judge said. "It is all too easy for a grown man to say 'She looked older, she said she was 16 and I believed her'."

He added: "There is no evidence in this case at all to suggest, let alone to establish, that this girl deliberately set out to seduce you, no evidence that she was the one who made all the running and no evidence of her initiating any sexual activity, merely a response of the teenage girl to your words of flattery."

As well as being sentenced to 12 months in prison, Rix was placed on the sex offenders' register for ten years. Colin Hutchinson, Chelsea's managing director at the time, said: "Chelsea do not condone what Graham Rix did, but he is paying a very heavy price for one mistake and he will serve the sentence and the stigma will stay with him for the rest of his life."

After serving six months, Rix was released and returned to his job at Chelsea.