A dad has penned an emotional letter to Sunderland AFC chief executive Margaret Byrne as the club remains silent on questions over its decision to continue playing Adam Johnson.
The 28-year-old was sacked by the Black Cats after he pleaded guilty to kissing and grooming a 15-year-old girl at the start of his trial at Bradford Crown Court last month.
A jury subsequently found him guilty of a further charge of sexual activity with a child and not guilty of another, leading the judge to warn the England winger that he faces a likely five-year jail term.
In a statement after the trial, the club insisted they would have sacked him immediately had they known he was going to admit any of the charges. Read the statement here.
But Detective Inspector Aelfwynn Sampson, of Durham Police, said that after the player was arrested a year ago, she told club bosses that sexual activity had taken place and that Johnson had messaged the girl.
Sunderland initially suspended the player for a fortnight, then allowed him back into the squad as the club fought relegation last year. The club insisted this was because Johnson said he was pleading not guilty.
During his trial, Johnson said he made full and frank admissions to the club and the jury also heard that, by May 4, chief executive Margaret Byrne met Johnson and his barrister and she had all the messages exchanged and transcripts from police interviews.
The Echo has sent SAFC a list of questions it would like answered, while Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott and Clare Phillipson, director of charity Wearside Women in Need, have been among those asking why Johnson was allowed to carry on playing and picking up £60,000 a week.
However, the club last night told the Echo it would be making no further comment at this time, despite growing pressure. Meanwhile EA Sports, makers of FIFA 16, last night confirmed they have removed Johnson from one of the world’s most popular computer games.
Now a Sunderland-supporting dad has added his voice to the calls for the club to set out its full knowledge of the case against Adam Johnson after saying he feels “betrayed” by the revelations made during the player’s trial.
Related story: Adam Johnson removed from FIFA 16 computer game after child sex offences
Ross Robson, who is a season ticket holder with his eight-year-old son Henry in the family section of the Stadium of Light, has written to the club’s chief executive Margaret Byrne to express his anger that the club allowed the winger to keep playing following his arrest.
Business analyst Ross, who follows in the footsteps of his father and grandfather as a fan, has said he felt sickened the club still allowed Johnson to meet young fans after matches after he was charged.
The 40-year-old, who is also dad to Grace, five, said it should have done more to safeguard fans and keep him away from youngsters, even if they chose to to play him during its relegation battle.
He is waiting for further clarification from its bosses about what they did and did not know about the claims in the lead up to the court hearings before he makes a decision about whether to attend matches again.
Mr Robson said: “When I heard about the allegations I was shocked and hoped they weren’t true and I also believe in the legal system and being innocent until proven guilty.
“I was quite vocal on the Sunderland message boards about whether they should bring him back or not because of the kids and under 16 safeguarding, When I heard he pleaded guilty, as most people did, we expected the club to sack him and I’m pleased they did. I had to have quite a difficult conversation with my son.
“Adam Johnson was one of his favourite players and he was a role model. We waited for him after the West Ham match. I feel pretty sick now that he knew he was guilty and still posed for fans. He’s scum.
“The club’s statement just skirted around the issue. I feel naive and I feel betrayed.”