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      06.11.2014 10:41
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      Football & Gangsters - by Graham Johnson

      With convicted rapist Ched Evans in the news right now there is no better time to read this book. What people haven’t thought about with footballers accused of rape is whether they were set up by criminals to be blackmailed and, maybe, his refusal to pay ended up badly. It’s not impossible. There have been numerous cases of young footballers charged with rape in the news over the last ten years, Nail Ranger of Newcastle United the most recent, and only one of them has ever been convicted, Ched Evans. Did the court make an example of the Sheffield United striker or could the charge have ‘gone away’ if he had paid off the gangsters? According to well know Liverpool crime writer Graham Johnson this type of thing does go on. It’s highly likely he exploited a young girl who had been drinking but young women are as promiscuous and daring as young men are these days and its something society and the law is not prepared to counter.

      Some of the stories of gangsters in football in the book have been collaborated by the police and well known in the press, like the threats on Liverpool players Steve Gerrard and Robbie Fowler, whilst others are more conjecture, like the ones around Wayne Rooney and Michal Owen. What is true is high ranking thugs and mobsters are around footballers all the time, be it in security, drinking in the same pubs or just friends and associates. There is a lot of money in the game right now and the sharks are circling for a payday, usually using violence and intimidation to get that cash. One unnamed player in London was paying ten grand a month protection money to avoid a beating in East London, and by people he grew up with and once called friends.

      With the Ched Evans cases public opinion seems to be split. Most men think he is not guilty of the offence he was charged with and the girls think he took advantage of here. Blokes say she was willing as much as a girl could be after a night out on the pop, women say men areal the same. Let’s not forget more young women idolize the feckless Katie Price and her fake boob lifestyle than the brave female doctors working with Ebola. They want the WAG lifestyle. The now redacted Rhyl hotel video shows a reasonably sober young lady heading to the room with a pizza in one hand and another United player in the other, that of Clayton McDonald. There was never a claim of rape by the young woman and Evans says the girl consented for him to join in a threesome after receiving a text from McDonald to come and join the party. I’m not sure either way how it played out but it’s so often the case that alcohol is mitigation for women and incriminating for men in these cases. But I do think some young women get blasted so they don’t have to worry so much about those modesty decisions. They can decide in the morning whether it was Yes or No. It’s called emancipation and men and women more equal than we like to think when it comes to being reckless. The complainant contacted the police the next day as she felt her drink had been spiked and she had lost her phone and bag, which she apparently had not, the classic excuse for I drank too much. Evans DNA was not found on the girl. The guys clearly took advantage of that alcohol position and they were gone when she woke up, perhaps the biggest insult. Feminist perked up and said if this WAS just a young woman sleeping with a trophy footballer then why DIDN’T she cash in with the newspaper article? The answer to that maybe the fact the following and rather sick twitter abuse after the event meant the girl had to get a new life and identity and so couldn’t cash in. As far as I am concerned the girl took alcohol, went to the room with a guy and so has to take some of the blame.

      So, as far as that goes with the book, I would personally discount third parties involved in this case. The girl had no gang connections. The police decided it was rape after viewing the location of the act and other witness’s testimony. Ched’s rather sad girlfriend stuck by him, clearly wanting to date a footballer to get in the papers to become the revered Wag. But I have no problem with the idea that local crime types send, or approach girls, to pick up footballers to try and blackmail them, especially players in relationships, Rooney in a right pickle with Coleen when he went to that Liverpool brothel to meet grannies.

      The author puts meat on the bone on the sex tape scandal as he details his efforts to try and buy the brothel CCTV tape for the News of the World of Wayne Rooney’s antics, and 14 other unnamed footballers and celebrities, and the threats that resulted from ‘local faces’ on the revelations. Some of them wanted the tapes to protect the young Everton star whereas Johnson wanted a lucrative expose. Johnson won the day as his newspaper paid the highest amount, a corruption in its own right, and didn’t name the other 14. When Rooney left for United there was no more protection for him in the city of Liverpool.

      The book looks into other infamous cases involving players, played out in the tabloids, some revealed by Johnson, some old news. Most football fans know the story of Steven Gerard being’ leaned on’ not to leave Liverpool for Chelsea as the Scouse gangs that supported Liverpool didn’t want England best midfielder to go anywhere else, one lot threatening to ‘knobble him’. Incredibly, Liverpool FC sent then consultant Kenny Dalgish to talk Gerrard around. Daglish met Gerrard and his agent in a hotel, brining along a known Gangster, some say as ‘insurance’, to make sure he would change his mind. Yes, Kenny Daglish.

      Robbie Fowlers contribution to the book was the tale of gangsters threatening his sister, who was a drug addict living in his mansion at the time, a family secret, trying to blackmail him for cash or they would go to the papers with the story. Johnson suggests they were trying to kidnap her when she was pregnant, although the police saying it was probably a car jacking. Some say this was a cover story for Fowlers alleged cocaine habit and involvement with local gangsters, where as others think she was a target.

      Straying away from Liverpool we also look into the tale of Mark Ward of West Ham, who, near retirement and broke, decided he quite fancied getting involved in the international cocaine trade, which he was quickly caught for, a property in his name used as a cocaine factory. Or the amazing Leeds United story where desperate owners trying to reduce the wage bill allegedly plotting to dope Michael Duberys drink with drugs so they could sack him so to unload his 25 grand a week salary. It was never proved but odd things were going on at a decadent Leeds United in the 1990s. Even Odder things are going on there now, no doubt Johnson penning his next book on that alone.
      Scottish football doesn’t escape

      The main problem with this book is the author, who had good success with unearthing the drug gangs and mobsters of the United Kingdom with books like Powder Wars’, is trying very hard to link those guys to football corruption. He even regurgitates the Mickey Thomas story from the early 1980s and the fake gypsy money. There is no solid connections other than hearsay. I’m sure they tried to run protection rackets to get at players but you also feel the local faces simply wanted to be around the teams they support. This is a tabloid hack writing a football book.


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