Saturday, January 26, 2013
IPSWICH Town will stand by disgraced striker Michael Chopra despite him being branded a liar and warned off racecourses for 10 years for his part in fixing horse races, the EADT understands.
The 29-year-old self-confessed gambling addict was found to have been involved in race-fixing following an inquiry by the British Horseracing Authority.
In addition to being warned off, Chopra cannot associate with anyone licensed by the BHA, or go to any licensed training establishment.
But the EADT understands that Ipswich Town will not take disciplinary action against Chopra, because he remains a valuable asset and his misdemeanours happened before he joined the club.
That stance may not please some Blues fans - in a poll run on the EADT website, in which more than 900 people voted, around 64% said the club should dismiss the player.
Yesterday, the inquiry found Chopra and eight other people, including former jockey Andrew Heffernan, were involved in corruption relating to laying horses to lose on betting exchanges.
The findings will now be reviewed by the Gambling Commission, which decides whether to refer such inquiries to police. However, a spokesman said cases dealt with by a sport’s governing body do not normally lead to prosecutions.
There is also no indication at this stage that Ipswich Town will take any disciplinary action against Chopra - who chose not to appear at last week’s inquiry - despite the BHA’s damning conclusions about his honesty, and involvement corrupt practices.
The club’s highest wage earner, who is understood to paid in the region of £17,000 a week, was playing for Cardiff City at the time of race-fixing.
Steve Pearce, Ipswich Town’s press manager, said: “This is a private matter between Michael and the British Horseracing Authority.
“Michael issued a statement before the inquiry began stating his reasons why he would not be appearing in front of the BHA.
“He has nothing further to add to that statement at this stage and wants to concentrate on an important game at Bristol City at the weekend.”
The BHA inquiry stated Chopra’s interviews to investigators consisted of lies, which were exposed to be “utterly untrue”.
Chopra was found in breach of committing corrupt and fraudulent practices and offering a bribe, while fellow footballer James Coppinger was found guilty of corrupt and fraudulent practices.
Former England Under-21s international Mark Wilson was found in breach of committing corrupt and fraudulent practices and offering a bribe.
Five other individuals - including Chopra’s former agent Yogesh Joshee, Paul Garner, Douglas Shelley, Kelly Inglis and Pravin Shingardia - were also found in breach of the rules of racing.
Laying out the evidence against Chopra, the BHA report was scathing in its findings.
The report stated: “It was plain beyond doubt to the panel that Chopra was fully engaged in the conspiracy.
“He did not attend the inquiry, or even send in some indication of his defence in writing. Thus, his only contribution was in the interviews he gave to the BHA Investigators.
“Much of what he said in those interviews consisted of lies. His denial of knowing Heffernan or of ever speaking to him was exposed as utterly untrue.”
Heffernan was warned off for 15 years, Inglis received a four-year disqualification, Garner 12-and-a-half years, Wilson 10 years, Joshee five years, Shingadia three years, Coppinger three years, and Shelley was excluded for eight years.
All have seven days within which to appeal.
Chopra has rarely been away from the headlines during his stint at Ipswich Town which began in the summer of 2011.
During this time it emerged through evidence given by chief executive Simon Clegg during a major drugs trial at Newcastle Crown Court that the club had advanced Chopra £250,000 to help pay gambling debts.
The court also heard debt collectors had been sent to the club’s Playford Road training ground demanding Chopra pay back money he was said to have owed.
Last season the striker spent three weeks in the Sporting Chance rehabilitation clinic in a bid to banish his addiction to gambling.
In addition Chopra has been involved in court for three driving offences which have led to two separate driving bans.