Ex-Barnsley football coach guilty of accepting bribe

The former assistant head coach of Barnsley Football Club has been found guilty of accepting a bribe of £5,000 to leak commercial information about players.

Tommy Wright, 53, was handed an envelope of cash during the course of an undercover investigation by Daily Telegraph reporter Claire Newell into corruption in football in 2016.

Wright, of Barnsley, South Yorkshire, denied wrongdoing but was convicted of two charges of accepting a bribe in contravention of the Bribery Act 2000 at Southwark Crown Court on Monday.

Two football agents – Giuseppe “Pino” Pagliara, 64, of Bury, Greater Manchester, and Dax Price, 48, of Sittingbourne, Kent – were also both convicted of paying and facilitating a bribe.

Pagliara and Price broke football rules by acting as “third party” owners of players in a bid to profit when they were sold on to other clubs.

The jury had deliberated for just under 32 hours before returning their majority verdicts on Wright and Price. Pagliara was found guilty on December 12.

Third party ownership set-ups were banned by the English Football Association (FA) in 2009 and by Fifa, the football world governing body, in 2015.

The highest profile casualty of a series of exposes published in the Telegraph in 2016 was then-England manager Sam Allardyce.

He was forced to quit after being recorded offering journalists posing as businessmen advice on how to “get around” FA player transfer rules.

Price and Pagliara claimed to Newell that club managers were “getting backhanders, 100%” to secure lucrative transfer deals.

Pagliara also told Ms Newell in undercover footage that football was not for “morally correct people”, when she posed as a businesswoman from a wealthy firm looking to invest in the English game.

After accepting the bribe from Ms Newell at a meeting in August 2016, Wright is understood to have leaked commercial information about players at Barnsley.

Some of the players were encouraged to sign up with the two agents.

Prosecutor Brian O’Neill said Price and Pagliara “explicitly discussed the payment of future sums to Mr Wright”.

Wright did not deny accepting the £5,000 but he had paid tax on it and declared it to HMRC.

Lewis Power QC, for Wright, said his motivation for getting involved with Pagliara and Price was to turn Barnsley into a better club.

The court also heard that Price and Pagliara made a series of boasts about their footballing links.

Meetings were set up in London with former England manager Steve McLaren, ex-Arsenal player Nwankwo Kanu and another former football manager, Harry Redknapp.

On one occasion Pagliara boasted: “I go the official way and I go the unofficial way… 99% of the industry is made up of people that, if they weren’t in football would be selling second-hand cars.”

He also claimed to have thanked Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson with a £30,000 Rolex after he allegedly conspired to fix the result of a Champions League match against Italian side Juventus.

Price and Pagliara also made allegations about the behaviour of other prominent footballing figures such as McLaren, Redknapp and manager Neil Warnock, among others.

Prosecutor Brian O’Neill QC emphasised that none of these individuals were part of the prosecution’s case.

He said the prosecution did not seek to “malign” those mentioned by Price and Pagliara as they were not present when the claims were said and not in a position to deny them in court.

Price and Pagliara repeatedly used the phrase “looking after people” when discussing alleged corruption across the football world.

In her evidence, Ms Newell said: “I was told that specific managers were receiving ‘bungs’ or bribes to facilitate footballer transfers and that particular agents were paying these bribes.

“I thought it was massively in the public interest to expose this kind of behaviour as, on the face of it, it would appear to be quite straightforward corruption.”

Pagliara claimed talk of corruption was “grandstanding” to impress Ms Newell in the hope they could persuade her and her company to eventually buy a football club and appoint him as chairman.

A friend of Price, who gave character evidence for him, said he was “stupid and naive” with “absolutely no business sense whatsoever”.

James Hennessy compared Price to Del Boy from Only Fools And Horses and added: “Dax is never far away from being a millionaire, he was always the next big deal and he always falls flat on his face.”

Following the verdicts, Judge Jeffrey Pegden QC thanked the jury and indicated he intends to sentence the defendants in the new year.

Read Full Story

FROM OUR PARTNERS