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Confirmation in the UK media that taxpayers could have to pay as much as £1 billion in compensation after hundreds of sub-postmasters and mistresses were wrongly pursued through the courts by the Post Office (PO) in the biggest miscarriage of justice in British legal history, highlights again a bizarre affair at football’s governing body in Wales.
The former PO workers were wrongly convicted of theft due to the defective Horizon IT system.
The system, which was supplied by the giant Japanese company Fujitsu, falsely suggested there were cash shortfalls, leading to 736 unsafe convictions for theft, fraud and false accounting.
The huge miscarriage of justice case had enormous unpleasant consequences for those affected.
One former PO worker, Jennifer O’Dell, said she had considered killing herself and suffered from recurring night terrors.
She had been accused of stealing almost £10,000 from a post office in Cambridgeshire.
Speaking at the end of the first week of an independent inquiry into the scandal, Ms O’Dell said she had researched how to take her own life, as well as suffered from depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
She said: “I went to some very dark places, extremely dark places. I even worked out how to commit suicide. I had to have anti-depressants. I had to have sleeping pills. I had night terrors where my husband had to wake me up. And it wasn’t just once every so often, it was two or three times a week. I had high blood pressure as well”.
This extraordinary episode, shines the spotlight, once more, on recent astonishing events at the Football Association of Wales (FAW).
A key player in the wrongful legal pursuit by the PO was Angela van den Bogerd, whose appointment as ‘Head of People’ at the FAW led to the abrupt departure of the organisation’s contentious chief. Jonathan Ford left last year after losing a vote of no-confidence among senior figures at the FAW, following an astonishing civil war inside the organisation which has never been fully explained by the mainstream media.
Yet it seems huge problems remained at the FAW.
One former football club director in Wales told us exclusively then: “Getting rid of Jonathan Ford solves nothing. What about answering my request for details of extremist Welsh nationalist groups ‘tagging on’ to the Wales national football team on social media!”.
A leading Welsh sports journalist who supplies material for UK publications, said: “This is ridiculous. They sack Ford but still haven’t answered my questions about why an FAW stadium announcer backs (Welsh football supporters’ brass band) The Barry Horns and has endorsed Welsh Football Fans for Independence”.
Other major questions have also been raised about the disturbing events at the FAW, as it seems that Ms van den Bogerd may have been in Mr Ford’s camp, and her appointment was among “multiple” matters of grievance, according to one source.
Before she went there, she had been a PO director, but was found by a judge to have “obfuscated” and “misled” a court. Ms van den Bogerd has now departed the FAW, too.
The group her former organisation (the FAW) received the complaint about, The Barry Horns (TBH), denied calling a politician a “lying cunt” online even though The Eye have found the evidence. They proclaimed about Brexiteers on Twitter “fuck you”, and declared about then UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, “Go fuck yourself you Tory bastard“, but were to have been used as ‘guests’ in a performance by BBC Radio Cymru (BBC RC) and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW), which officials claimed was “Suitable for all ages”.
In December of 2019 the angry sports journalist also outlined to the FAW a series of problematic issues: “The Barry Horns have had their official Twitter account shut down for foul and abusive behaviour, and repeated violations of Twitter’s terms and conditions. They then set up another account, which was shut down within a week.
- A group calling itself ‘Welsh Football Fans for Independence’ held a march from Womanby St to the Cardiff City Stadium before the last home game. They were setting off flares and singing foul-mouthed chants about the Union Flag (Union Jack).
- Large stickers have appeared on lamp posts, post boxes etc around South Wales (and possibly North Wales) from ‘Welsh Football Fans for Independence’. The stickers contain the FAW emblem (albeit the old one).
- The FAW’s stadium announcer, Rhydian Bowen Phillips, has publicly called for the reinstatement of The Barry Horns on Twitter and has endorsed Welsh Football Fans for Independence.
- There were banners endorsing Welsh independence at the stadium during the most recent Wales home international.”
TBH were briefly barred from Twitter following their offensive comments, and after the ban was lifted said that they were “beautiful”, yet queries have emerged about this contentious decision. The former leader of Plaid Cymru (PC) Leanne Wood spoke out against the restriction at the time, saying on Twitter: “… you ban the Barry Horns? For defending the NHS?”, this was then re-tweeted by the former PC (now independent) MP Jonathan Edwards.
The one time football club director in Wales had earlier contacted the FAW, asking: “I would like to know what the FAW position is on the Barry Horns who having affiliated themselves to South Wales football now appear to have adopted an aggressive political agenda. Some of their language on Twitter is worse than I have ever endured on football terraces. Is this the sort of agenda the FAW condone?”, and action was demanded.
Meanwhile it is obvious that TBH support Ms Wood’s (and Mr Edwards’ previous) party because before the Twitter ban, they exhorted followers to “Join @Plaid Cymru”.
They are an eleven-piece brass band, created in 2011 by BBC Cymru Wales (BBC CW) promos director ‘Fez’ Watkins. Their first public appearance was outside the Wales v England World Cup qualifying match in Cardiff on 26 March 2011. They also appeared at the Welsh Cup Final in the same year, which was broadcast on television.
However in March 2017, they were banned from the Republic of Ireland v Wales World Cup 2018 qualifying match in Dublin. Yet in September of the same year, they gave a headline performance at the first Welsh Independence music festival in association with YesCymru, held at Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff.
That month TBH also gave football fans from North Wales a surprise welcome to Cardiff with a performance at Cardiff Central railway station ahead of Wales’ match against Austria at the Cardiff City Stadium, gaining official approval. At the time they declared: “The Horns couldn’t wait to greet the train upon its arrival to Caerdydd. Next stop – 3 points!”.
Arriva Trains Wales (ATW) stated: “The atmosphere on board was amazing with everyone in great spirits all the way down and for The Barry Horns to be welcoming the train and fans into Cardiff was the icing on the cake”. A Welsh TV company said: “The Barry Horns know how to get a party started, even on a station platform”.
The headline-grabbing broadcaster BBC CW also found itself brought into the growing row. BBC RC and BBC NOW were due to stage the ‘Red Wall’ with BH at Pontio in Bangor, although the venue was closed due to coronavirus/Covid-19.
It was to mark “the amazing journey supporting our national football team through Euro 2020”, and was apparently ‘suitable’ for children. The band which had published the deeply offensive remarks to prominent politicians, were ‘guest’ performers.
On May 27 of 2019 the sports journalist had followed up an earlier demand for action from the FAW by telling them: “I have continued to experience harassment from certain groups… Can you please respond to the concerns?”.
In documents we have seen, a reply from the FAW was simply: “I have not discussed fully with Jonathan Ford. When I returned from holiday he went away on his…I have followed up on the issues raised but need to talk to Jonathan first.”
But then nothing. The accounts of the FAW also make for interesting reading, with EIGHT directors having their contracts terminated on the SAME day – July 31 2019.
Yet this is not the first time that Mr Ford or his former organisation have hit the headlines, and this news about the PO taxpayer bailout is set against a worrying backdrop.
Football in Wales under Mr Ford’s stewardship, has often hit the headlines, and recently the North Wales town of Wrexham was at the centre of an astonishing row. The FAW was founded in Wrexham, and earlier The Eye exclusively revealed how the violence of some supporters of Wrexham AFC in Manchester, was celebrated by a dissident republican group linked to a militant organisation allegedly behind the killing of a journalist.
An alarming post on Twitter from ‘Saroadh PR’ said that some fans of the Welsh football club “beat the absolute shit out of Tomy (sic) Robinson (former English Defence League [EDL] leader) far right fascists” and backed the message with a picture of men in balaclavas holding guns aloft. The tweet outlined a series of mundane actions which included waking up early and taking a train to Manchester before the violence. It then proclaimed: “All in a days work for the Welsh lads” – 197 accounts retweeted the message and more than 1,200 accounts liked it.
Saroadh, liberation in Irish, is a grouping which has the support of dissident republican organisation the New IRA, which was blamed for shooting journalist Lyra McKee.
Mr Ford was appointed as FAW chief executive in 2009, with a marketing background. He was been widely credited with lifting the FAW’s profile and increasing turnover. During his tenure, Wales has staged its first UEFA competition, the European Women’s Under-19s tournament in 2013, and hosted the Super Cup final in 2014.
There are unlikely to be prizes now if taxpayers could have to pay as much as £1 billion in compensation after the biggest miscarriage of justice in British history, highlighting as it does, a curious episode at football’s governing body in Wales.
Our Editor Phil Parry’s memories of his remarkable decades long award-winning career in journalism as he was gripped by the incurable neurological disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book (including looking behind the headlines of important football events) ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now!
Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.