Footballer denies race fix claims

A FORMER Hartlepool United loan player has vowed to clear his name after being accused of fixing horse races.

James Coppinger, who had temporary spells at Victoria Park in 2000 and 2002, is one of three footballers charged with breaches of horse-racing rules, including offering a bribe to a jockey, following a lengthy investigation by horse racing bosses.

Coppinger, 31, insisted he was not guilty of the allegations in a statement on the official website of Nottingham Forrest where he currently plays.

He said: “I am here to state categorically that I have never been involved in any horse race fixing whatsoever.

“I can confirm that I have never done anything which brings Doncaster Rovers, Nottingham Forest, myself or my family into disrepute, and I will welcome the hearing in January to totally clear my name.”

Coppinger and 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.

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

The charges relate to 12 races in 2010 and 2011.

Heffernan is alleged to have stopped his ride in three races.

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