Former Premier League striker sent to prison for match fixing

Delroy Facey's mugshot
Delroy Facey's mugshot

A former Premier League striker has been jailed for two-and-a-half years after becoming the highest-profile player to be convicted of match-fixing allegations.

Delroy Facey, 35, who played for Bolton Wanderers, West Bromwich Albion and Hull City, was found guilty at Birmingham Crown Court earlier of conspiracy to bribe non-league players.

He had denied any wrong-doing during a three-week trial, claiming he thought two corrupt businessmen offering him up to £15,000 for his part in the plot were "class clowns" whom he decided to "humour".

Judge Mary Stacey said Facey's offences struck "at the very heart of football".

"You have been a role model, but you have abused that position," she added.

The trial heard that Facey urged a footballer at a struggling non-league club to make some "easy money" by fixing the result of a match. He also told a contact that some Football Conference teams would "do" a game in return for payment.

Facey's co-accused, former non-league player Moses Swaibu, of Tooley Street, Bermondsey, south London, was convicted of the same charge.

Judge Stacey, sentencing both men, said: "It's about the fans of the teams involved, the families who follow the fortunes of their teams with passion, loyalty and devotion.

"They assume that all the players in those teams will be sharing in that and playing their hardest and best.

"It's also about the employees and staff, groundsmen, coaches, the cleaners, even the owners and share-holders, the match stewards - many of whom will have been volunteers.

"You have betrayed all that trust, all that confidence, and it's like a cancer at the heart of football."

She added: "Your behaviour strikes at the very heart of football and the concept of gamesmanship.

"It crossed my mind that so many of the different pieces of terminology in everyday speech we use, in fairness and justice, are used in football - things like 'it's a fair game', or 'a level playing field'.

"Fairness is at the heart of football, and the opportunity of everyone to do their best, and your behaviour has struck right at the heart of that."

She said the pair were "both willing participants" but that Facey had been "far more the initiator and prime-mover, expending far more of your time on this enterprise - even when you were at work".

Judge Stacey added: "Both of you, to slightly different extents, have lived the dream of professional football, as is every small boy's dreams.

"You, Delroy Facey, played not only in the Premiership but also internationally for Grenada and had the opportunity to work with managers such as Sam Allardyce and Sven Goran-Eriksson, and so many people would have given their eye teeth to play football at that professional standard that you had."

Turning to the reasons why both men had committed their crimes, she concluded: "In both cases, your motivation was financial greed."

Ecky Tiwana, in mitigation for Facey, said: "It has not only been a professional tragedy, but a personal one.

"This was a man who went to the heights of Premier League football."

He added: "This serious conviction is going to stay with him for the rest of his life.

"The stigma of being the most high-profile footballer being convicted of this type of offence - that will have a lasting effect on him, for the rest of his life.

"This man has fallen from great heights and it's very sad indeed we sit here - that having had great success in football, he is having to go to prison today."

Swaibu, 25, was jailed for 16 months for his part in the conspiracy.

Both men will serve half their sentences in jail and the remainder out on licence, said Judge Stacey.

Swaibu's barrister, Richard Keogh, said in mitigation that any hope of playing professional football again had now been ended by his conviction.

"His career, his dreams have been ruined," he added.

As Facey prepared to leave with the dock officers, he made a chin-up gesture to his family including his weeping mother, who sat in the public gallery.

Afterwards, there were emotional scenes, with Facey's mother sobbed loudly in the court as her son was led down from the dock to begin his sentence behind bars.

Earlier, Facey, while outside court on temporary bail and immediately before his sentencing hearing, had declined to make any comment to waiting reporters.