'Flawed decisions' or Outrage for outrage sake'? Sunderland fans letters on Adam Johnson

Letters from Sunderland fans as Adam Johnson awaits sentencing:

Saturday, 5th March 2016, 5:58 pm
Updated Saturday, 5th March 2016, 6:06 pm
Adam Johnson at Bradford Crown Court.

Outrage for outrage sake

Why are people believing Adam Johnson?

Why is every Tom Dick and Harry attacking SAFC over the Adam Johnson case? The latest is Clare Phillipson, leader of Wearside Women In Need.

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I bet she has heard of some horrific cases committed by scumbags in her line of work. The thing is, she should also know that they will lie through their back teeth to deflect blame.

So why does she believe Adam Johnson’s word, over SAFC’s word, about knowing he was guilty?

People like this are just dying to express some outrage over something they know nothing about. Interesting that she uses the word ‘betrayal’ when she describes the club. I used the same word about Bridget Phillipson, when she voted for air strikes in Syria, against her constituents’ wishes.

D Lyall


Flawed decisions

Once again Sunderland AFC are top of the news bulletins and are front page news for all the wrong reasons.

This is the second time that this has occurred in the last few years, the last being the Di Canio debacle. On both occasions the cause has been decisions made at the highest level of the Club.

On both occasions the club appears to have made seriously flawed and catastrophic decisions for reasons of short term footballing expediency without any proper consideration of the longer term consequences, and matters of principle. The Club has ended up in disrepute, its image damaged.

The Club has issued a robust statement after the jury’s verdict had been returned in the Johnson case. They sought to suggest that it would be their last word on the topic; quite clearly it won’t be. By seeking to close matters down in this way, they are displaying some of the arrogance shown by Adam Johnson throughout the process. They made a similar comment about their appointment of Di Canio and that was equally misguided.

It is easy to see why they hope not to make any further comment, because the statement fails to address one critical issue. It is this – was the Club, through Margaret Byrne, provided with a copy of the transcript of Johnson’s interview with the police in which he admitted to texting the girl and kissing her passionately? If she was then she was aware of the critical facts, which ultimately led to Johnson’s guilty plea on the morning of the trial.

The guilty plea didn’t change the club’s knowledge of these events; if they had the transcript they already knew what Johnson had admitted to – even if he sought to deny the more serious allegations. In these circumstances it is indefensible that Johnson was ever allowed to continue to play football for SAFC again and was not immediately dismissed.

It is not simply a question of Johnson’s word against hers. Johnson, we know, is a liar. He admitted as much during the trial, and the jury’s verdict must mean that they didn’t believe much of his evidence. However his evidence on this point is effectively corroborated by his legal team.

This is the extract from the Echo’s live update for February 24: OP telling court that he first met Johnson over the early May bank holiday last year. Also present at this meeting were Johnson’s father and SAFC chief exec Margaret Byrne.

Johnson has confirmed that at this meeting, Margaret Byrne had copies of the footballer’s interview transcripts, WhatsApp message exchanges and interviews with the girl and her friends. Reminder, this was in May 2015.

The very fact that Johnson said in evidence, when being examined in chief by his barrister, that the club had been provided with a copy of his police interview transcripts, must mean that his barrister Orlando Pownall QC knew that this had happened. Mr Pownall was present at that meeting. The probability is that it would have been he or his solicitor who would have handed over the records, not Johnson. If it hadn’t happened he could not have allowed evidence to be given to the Court which he knew as a fact to be untrue. In these circumstances, unless that evidence was corrected both Johnson’s Counsel and Solicitor would have had to withdraw from the case. The professional rules about this are strict – a barrister or a solicitor cannot mislead the Court (This is entirely different from the position when a barrister might suspect a client of not telling the truth but he does not know from his own knowledge that what his client is saying is untrue, however unbelievable it might sound.)

In his closing speech Orlando Pownall QC is reported by the Echo as saying: “It’s plain they knew exactly what was going on. They had the statements, they did have Mr Johnson’s interview and they chose in that situation, rightly or wrongly ... they allowed him to keep playing.”

The prosecution counsel said in her closing speech: “He said he made it quite clear to the football club that he was guilty of an offence”.

There is a clear case to answer. If it is established that Margaret Byrne had the transcript of Johnson’s police interview then her position is untenable. It would be outrageous if she has then knowingly allowed a self-admitted child sex offender to play for the Club. For the Club to say in their statement that “The club never placed any pressure or demands on Mr. Johnson to play football during this process.” is both puerile and mealy mouthed. It was the Club’s responsibility to decide whether to allow Johnson to play or not.

It is only by taking strong, decisive and principled action that the club can start to regain some more of the trust which it has lost because of its handling of this shocking matter. The victim and her family need to see that at long last SAFC are treating this matter seriously. Margaret Byrne should be suspended immediately, whilst the matter is properly investigated.

Richard Stevinson

I feel quite strongly about what has gone on in the Adam Johnson sex case. It is evidently clear that the club was given the transcripts of the police interviews, and surely, I would think, would have known that Johnson admitted to the police that he admitted to kissing the girl and all of the 834 texts he had sent to the girl, evidence that he was guilty of the charges of being a sex offender.

The club’s lawyers surely would have told them that he was guilty of these offences. So why did the club still play him and pay him his £60,000 wages? Johnson himself said he admitted his guilt to the Chief Executive Margaret Byrne!

So if that was the case,why did an experienced law solicitor, like Margaret Byrne let him still play for the club? The evidence in court, may I remind you AGAIN, that the club had been given the 836 WhatsApp messages between the schoolgirl and Johnson!! Surely this is clear evidence, along with the police interview transcripts made Johnson’s guilt very obvious of the charge of grooming!

Again with Margaret with her background in criminal law, would have made it clear to her that Johnson was guilty of the two charges he admitted to police!!!

Myself and all home and away fans have had to listen to disgusting paedophile songs sung by the away fans above us in the North stand, women, children and men having to listen to these poisonous songs, as if we were to blame for his evil deeds!

Also what about all the Sunderland youngsters who have had to either burn, or throw away their shirts with his name on?

Many hundreds of thousands of fans, myself included, over the last hundred years, would have loved to have played for their hometown club for nothing! Never mind the obscene wages Johnson was on!!

He has brought shame on the club I have supported all my life! I hope the victim and her family, can now move on with their lives, and I offer my greatest sympathy.

I hope that all young footballers will be educated by their clubs not to put themselves in that situation!

Clive Lee

Lifelong Sunderland fan!