Friday, October 30, 2020

Football agent accused former Manchester Utd Manager Alex Ferguson of match fixing

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A corrupt football agent made unsubstantiated claims to have “thanked” former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson for fixing a match by giving him a £30,000 Rolex watch, a court has heard.

Giuseppe “Pino” Pagliara, 64, made the claim in a conversation secretly recorded by an undercover reporter, the prosecution said. Opening the trial, Brian O’Neill QC said Pagliara was taped boasting that the former Manchester United manager had accepted the gold watch in exchange for conspiring to fix the result of a Champions League match against Juventus.

Pagliara is on trial for bribery at Southwark crown court alongside Tommy Wright, the former assistant head coach at Barnsley FC, and football agent Dax Price, 48. All three deny the charges against them.

Opening the trial on Thursday, the prosecutor, Brian O’Neill QC, said the men were caught up in an extensive investigation by the Telegraph, which published a number of exposés of alleged corruption in English football in September 2016.

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O’Neill said “the most high-profile casualty” of the work was the then England manager, Sam Allardyce, who had to resign from his role.

The court heard that Price and Pagliara made a series of boasts about their footballing links and set up meetings designed to “impress” undercover journalists.

Meetings were set up in London with the former England manager Steve McClaren, the former Arsenal player Nwankwo Kanu and the football manager Harry Redknapp.

O’Neill emphasised that none of the prominent footballing figures subject to allegations from Price and Pagliara were part of the prosecution’s case, which did not seek to “malign” them, as they were not present when the claims were said and not in a position to deny them in court.

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The court heard that Claire Newell, an undercover journalist using the pseudonym Claire Taylor, posed as a representative of a fake sports management company named Meiran, and contacted Pagliara in May 2016 saying she wanted to invest in football players in the UK.

O’Neill explained that, over a series of meetings, emails and texts, Pagliara, originally from Genoa, and Price allegedly proposed schemes whereby they would become players’ agents, buy them and place them at clubs.

They would maintain ownership of a player and profit from his onward sale, which O’Neill alleged was “all to be facilitated by bribery”.

The court was told that such third-party ownership arrangements were banned by the Football Association in 2008 and by Fifa in 2015.

Wright is accused of accepting a £5,000 bribe to leak commercial information about his club’s players. He was allegedly handed an envelope full of cash during the newspaper investigation.

The jury heard that Price and Pagliara, who has never been registered as a football agent with the FA, set up an introduction with Wright, who allegedly accepted payment to encourage players to appoint Price and Pagliara as their agents and help place players at Barnsley.

At various meetings, Pagliara claimed he had “a wardrobe full of skeletons”, knew “every single manager in the country” and suggested corruption was rife in football.

He said the evidence was presented because it showed a defendant’s alleged “knowledge or belief of corruption within football in this country and elsewhere, and his willingness not just to condone such practices but also to embrace and exploit them”.

O’Neill said Wright had helped arrange a meeting for the owner of Barnsley to be introduced to Price and Pagliara, where the latter would pretend to be an interpreter, because he did not want it to be known that a previous finding of corruption had been made against him by the Italian Football Federation.

He added that Wright, “rather than alerting his employers to this ruse, played along with the facade”.

The jury heard that at their first meeting with the undercover journalist, Price claimed football managers received “backhanders” when players were signed.

“It’s not corruption, but you know it is corruption … because obviously at the end of the day they’re just putting every deal through the manager and they’re obviously copping the money for it,” Price allegedly said.

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The jury were taken through secretly recorded transcripts of conversations with Pagliara and Price that were later passed to City of London police.

The court was told that before Wright arrived at the first meeting with the undercover journalist and his co-defendants, Price claimed the coach had said to him: “I’ll do whatever you want.” Price said they had to “look after” Wright, who wanted “£10,000 or so”.

The trial continues.

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