Former Hartlepool United star in race fix claims

FAMOUS STRIKE: James Coppinger celebrates an important goal against Hull as Pools reach the play-offs for the first time

FAMOUS STRIKE: James Coppinger celebrates an important goal against Hull as Pools reach the play-offs for the first time

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A FORMER Hartlepool United loan star is one of three footballers charged with breaches of horse-racing rules - including offering a bribe to a jockey - following a lengthy investigation by the British Horseracing Authority.

James Coppinger, who had temporary spells at Victoria Park in 2000 and 2002, along with former Newcastle and Sunderland star Michael Chopra and ex-Middlesbrough midfielder Mark Wilson, are alleged to have conspired with jockey Andrew Heffernan to fix races.

The three footballers are all charged with conspiring to “commit a corrupt or fraudulent practice” as part of a fixing ring that also included five other individuals.

If found guilty of the charges the footballers face a minimum three-year ban from involvement with racing, including attending racecourses.

The charges relate to 12 races in 2010 and 2011, in three of which Heffernan is alleged to have stopped his ride.

The charges claim that Chopra backed three horses to lose, or asked others to do so on his behalf, using information provided by Heffernan.

Heffernan, 24, moved to Australia to race earlier this year.

Paul Scotney, the BHA’s integrity, compliance and licensing director, said: “The charges BHA has issued are the result of a long and complicated investigation. This process has taken significant time and resources.

“However, investigations such as these are very similar to fraud investigations and as such are complex and time consuming.

“Furthermore, we encountered difficulties in obtaining telephone records from certain individuals who refused to co-operate. This resulted in us having to make a number of applications to the High Court for orders against their mobile telephone service providers for disclosure of the relevant records.

“We hope that the announcement demonstrates our commitment to deterring and detecting wrong-doing and taking action against those who we believe to have breached the rules.”