Sunderland chief exec. resigns after role in Adam Johnson criminal case

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Sunderland’s chief executive Margaret Byrne has resigned following her role in Adam Johnson‘s criminal case.

In a statement released on the club website, they confirmed Byrne’s resignation had been accepted after an internal investigation showed that “the decision not to suspend him for a second time pending the outcome of the trial, was wrong.”

[ MORE: Johnson to face jail ]

Johnson, 28, was convicted of two criminal acts following an incident with a 15-year-old girl and is currently awaiting sentence. The winger has been charged with one count of grooming and one count of sexual activity with a child.

Following his arrest for this incident last March, the former Middlesbrough and Manchester City midfielder had told the club he was to plead not guilty to the charges and said he was innocent. However, he admitted to two criminal charges in court in February and the next day had his contract terminated.

The fact that Johnson was able to play for Sunderland for almost a year (he was initially suspended for 16 days following his arrest) and earned over $4.5 million has been queried as reports claim that Byrne had read police reports where Johnson admitted kissing the girl, plus she’d seen his sexually charged WhatsApp messages. Johnson also said when giving evidence at his trial that he had “told everything” to Byrne and didn’t believe he would be sacked.

Byrne –a qualified solicitor who was meant to stand for Johnson’s defense during the trial but failed to do so — ultimately made the decisions on behalf of the club and below is the statement in full as she is no longer the CEO.

She also released a lengthy statement of her own following her resignation, which you can read here.

The Board of Sunderland AFC has today accepted the resignation of Margaret Byrne.

Margaret, in her role as CEO, was responsible for the running of the club. She was also accountable for the actions taken by the club in relation to Mr. Johnson.  Sunderland AFC acknowledges that Margaret’s intentions have always been to act in the best interests of the club, however it has become clear through our own internal investigations that in this instance decisions have been taken by Margaret in error.

Whilst swift and decisive action was taken to terminate Mr. Johnson’s employment upon his guilty plea, decisions taken prior to this, including the decision not to suspend him for a second time pending the outcome of the trial, were wrong.  In light of what has been acknowledged by Margaret as a serious error of judgment on her part, we have undertaken a full review of the club’s decision-making processes to ensure that there can be no such mistakes in the future.

Throughout this deeply regretful situation, we recognise that one devoted young fan and her family have been very badly let down, first and foremost by Mr. Johnson and his despicable actions, but also by the club they support. We are so very sorry for this.

Mr. Johnson lied to the club; he also lied to our fans and they have every right to feel aggrieved by this. Lessons have been learned and we hope that the club and its fans can move forward from this together.