News Business Crime & Financial Services 16th Dec 2019

Brian O’Neill QC, Julia Faure Walker and Merry van Woodenberg secure convictions in football bribery trial at Southwark Crown Court

Following a trial of two months’ duration, two football agents, Giuseppe ‘Pino’ Pagliara and Dax Price, and a former assistant head coach of Championship side Barnsley FC, Tommy Wright, have been convicted of four counts under the Bribery Act 2010.

The case stemmed from an extensive undercover investigation into alleged corruption in football by The Daily Telegraph in 2016, the most high-profile casualty of which was Sam Allardyce, the then England manager, who resigned his position.

The prosecution’s case was that the agents arranged payment of cash, and encouraged further payments to be made, in order to induce Wright to do one or more of the following improper acts:

  • To encourage football players at Barnsley FC to engage or retain Giuseppe Pagliara and Dax Price as their agents.
  • To place football players who Giuseppe Pagliara and Dax Price represented either as third party owned players or otherwise into Barnsley FC.
  • To ensure that football players who Giuseppe Pagliara and Dax Price represented either as third party owned players or otherwise played first team football for Barnsley FC.
  • To arrange a meeting between Giuseppe Pagliara and Dax Price with the owners, chief executive and manager of Barnsley FC.
  • To disclose confidential information relating to the contracts of Barnsley FC football players to Giuseppe Pagliara and Dax Price.

Undercover journalists posed as representatives from a sports management company which was interested in investing in football players.  A journalist arranged to meet Pagliara, who introduced her to Price, and later introduced her to Wright.  From the first meeting, Pagliara and Price divulged wide-ranging corrupt practices within football and discussed their plans to break FA regulations prohibiting third party ownership.  They referred to prominent individuals, at Premiership and Championship level, who took bungs and bribes.

The journalists recorded many hours of meetings and telephone calls, which were played at trial.  In addition, the prosecution called evidence from the FA, from those involved at executive and management level and from professional football players who were at Barnsley at the time

The case has been reported extensively in the national press here and here.  The Daily Telegraph investigation was reported internationally, for example here.

Brian O’Neill QC advised the Director of Public Prosecutions on whether charges should be brought (offences under the Bribery Act require the Director’s personal consent) and led Julia Faure Walker and Merry Van Woodenberg for the prosecution.  They were instructed by the CPS Specialist Fraud Division.

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