Feb 132016
Footballer 'abused position in society'
Footballer Adam Johnson arrives at Bradford Crown Court on Friday 12 FebruaryImage copyright PA
Image caption The former Sunderland footballer was arrested in March last year

Former Sunderland footballer Adam Johnson “abused his revered position in society” when he had sexual contact with a 15-year-old fan, a court has heard.

The 28-year-old, who has 12 England caps, is on trial accused of sexual activity with a child.

Prosecutors said it was “in a way that he knew was both morally and legally wrong”.

The footballer denies two charges of sexual activity with a girl under 16.

The alleged victim was 15 in December 2014 when Johnson was living with his then pregnant partner, Stacey Flounders, in Castle Eden, County Durham, Bradford Crown Court was told.

See more on this story and other news from across the North East here.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Adam Johnson arrived at court with his partner Stacey Flounders

‘Excessive arrogance’

Prosecutor Kate Blackwell QC said the girl was a passionate Sunderland Football Club fan and “idolised” Mr Johnson, who was her favourite player.

“After matches, she would hang around waiting for a glimpse of him, wanting to get a photograph, often sporting a Sunderland shirt with Johnson’s name emblazoned across the back,” she told the court.

“What has brought the defendant to this courtroom is a sexual desire for (the girl), an excessive arrogance and an unwarranted level of expectation.”

Miss Blackwell said the girl had “an enormous crush” on the footballer and made a Facebook friend request to him just before New Year 2015.

The jury was read an exchange of messages between the pair in which he arranged to meet her to sign a football shirt but she made it clear she had only just turned 15.

Mr Johnson had researched “legal of age of consent” on the internet, jurors heard.

The prosecutor said: “The Crown suggest that such a search to satisfy such an interest is unlikely to have resulted from a kiss and no more than a kiss, as the defendant contends.”

Johnson: “Where do you go out?” Girl: “I’m not old enough to go out.” Johnson: “Yeah, but you look old enough.”

‘Get your jeans off’

The pair met up on 17 January 2015 near a Chinese takeaway close to the girl’s home. She got into his black Range Rover, where he signed football shirts, the court heard.

After the meeting they exchanged further messages, discussing whether Mr Johnson deserved a thank you kiss for the shirt-signing “or more”.

Miss Blackwell said the pair met again, on 30 January, when they had sexual contact in the footballer’s car at the same location.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The court heard the pair met close to the girl’s home where he signed football shirts for her in his black Range Rover

She told the jury: “What happened in that car on that evening is for you to decide.

“The Crown’s case is that sexual activity took place, that the defendant and (the girl) kissed, with tongues, for some time during which the defendant unbuttoned her jeans and undid the zip.

“The defendant then stopped what he was doing. He did not, as he would have you believe, have a sudden pang of conscience, an epiphany, an experience of sudden and striking realisation.”

Miss Blackwell said the defendant then drove to “a more secluded place” as he was expecting “further sexual contact” and he wanted to ensure that they “could not be overlooked”.

The prosecutor then described further sexual activity and said there was a further exchange of messages between them after the encounter.

In one, Mr Johnson said to the girl: “It was class.”

He added: “Just wanted to get your jeans off, LOL.”

The girl replied: “Next time.”

Mr Johnson, who was born in Sunderland, began his career at Middlesbrough before moving to Manchester City and then on to Sunderland for £10m in 2012.

The trial continues.

The footballer has previously pleaded guilty to one count of sexual activity with a child and one charge of grooming. He was sacked by Sunderland as a result.

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Valcke gets 12-year football ban

 Posted by at 10:49 PM
Feb 122016
Valcke became secretary general at Fifa in 2007

Fifa has banned its former secretary general Jerome Valcke from all football-related activity for 12 years.

The decision was made by the governing body’s independent ethics committee following allegations of misconduct related to sales of World Cup tickets.

During the investigations, several other acts of potential misconduct arose, including travel expenses policies and regulations.

Valcke, 55, has also been fined 100,000 Swiss francs (£70,800).

In September last year Valcke was put on leave and released from his duties until further notice after Fifa had “been made aware of a series of allegations” involving him.

His dismissal was confirmed in January and Fifa recommended he should be banned from football for nine years.

Regarding the 12-year ban imposed on Friday, a Fifa statement said: “Amongst other things, the adjudicatory chamber found that a sports marketing firm had gained an undue advantage from the selling of World Cup tickets.

“In this respect, not only did Mr Valcke do nothing to stop these activities, he even encouraged the persons responsible to do so.

“By travelling at Fifa’s expense purely for sightseeing reasons, as well as repeatedly choosing private flights for his trips over commercial flights without any business rationale for doing so, Mr Valcke gained an advantage for himself and relatives.

“In doing so, Mr Valcke acted against Fifa’s best interests and caused considerable financial damage to Fifa.

“Concerning the issue of TV and media rights for the Caribbean, it was found that Mr Valcke attempted to grant the TV and media rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to a third party for a fee far below their actual market value and had taken concrete preparatory action in this regard.

“Furthermore, it was found that Mr Valcke deliberately tried to obstruct the ongoing proceedings against him by attempting to delete or deleting several files and folders relevant to the investigation, despite being aware of his duty to preserve all data and to collaborate in order to establish the facts of the case.”

In December last year, Fifa president Sepp Blatter and Uefa boss Michel Platini were suspended for eight years from all football-related activities following an ethics investigation which concluded they had demonstrated an “abusive execution” of their positions.

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Feb 122016
Louis van Gaal guided United to fourth place in his first season in charge

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal says he has no problem with the club’s failure to back him publicly.

United made no comment after club officials held talks with ex-Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho’s representatives, although no agreement was reached.

United are out of the Champions League and face a fight to make the top four.

“I don’t agree,” he said, when asked if United’s silence was unsettling. “You don’t have to answer invented stories. I agree with this policy of the club.”

United are currently fifth in the Premier League table, six points adrift of Manchester City in fourth.

They face second-from-bottom Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Saturday lunchtime.

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Feb 122016
Arsene Wenger: “I looked at the comparisons, our cheapest prices are cheaper than anywhere in London.”

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger wants fans to cancel protests set to take place during Sunday’s game against Leicester.

Foxes fans, who are upset at the late switch in date and kick-off time, plan to enter the Emirates Stadium five minutes after the match has started.

The ploy has been backed by Gunners supporters, but Wenger says everybody should be in their seats on time.

“You can protest before and after but during the game you want everybody to be there,” said the Frenchman.

The fixture was moved on 21 January, from Saturday (15:00 GMT) to Sunday (12:00 GMT), so it could be broadcast live on television.

Leicester supporters say the late switch has cost them money on travel and accommodation booked before the alteration.

But Wenger urged spectators not to miss “a moment of happiness”.

“Life is not every day fantastic,” he said, “Sometimes it’s boring, sometimes it’s difficult for many people.

“Football is a moment of happiness in your life, so don’t miss it.”

Arsenal supporters’ group REDaction has called on home fans to join in the protest by applauding the late arrivals into the stadium.

Wenger has also defended Arsenal’s ticket pricing again.

Last week, he said that extra television revenue for top-flight clubs, which starts flowing in from next season, should be used to buy players rather than cut ticket prices.

This week, he said the Gunners offered good value for money.

“It is a very complicated subject,” he said when asked for his latest views on the ongoing row over ticketing.

“Our most expensive price is a fraction higher than the other clubs in London. Our most common ticket price is lower than many places in England. I don’t think that we have a massive problem on that front.”

He said it was “true we get more television income” than other leagues but said there was pressure to “pay for the players with a higher price”.

He added: “You want the ticket prices to be as comfortable as possible for our fans. Our cheapest prices are cheaper than anywhere in London.”

What do other clubs think?

Stoke City have frozen ticket prices for eight seasons following their promotion to the Premier League.

Club chairman Peter Coates told the BBC: “We wanted prices to be affordable. It’s a working men’s sport and that’s where its roots are.

“We haven’t raised ticket prices. The amount of income we get from TV rights, we can afford to do what we do.”

Liverpool have been in the news this week following plans to increase the cost of its most expensive matchday ticket to £77.

The club eventually decided to abandon the price hike after fans staged a walkout last weekend.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp said the owners made the U-turn because “they really care about the club and the interests of supporters”.

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