Adam Johnson couldn't be fired until guilty, says Chawke
Dublin publican Charlie Chawke, who was a former investor in Sunderland FC, has said the club could not sack paedophile player Adam Johnson until he was proven guilty of child sex claims.
Mr Chawke, who owns several popular pubs, described the case as "very sad".
Johnson (28) was found guilty of sexual activity with a 15-year-old schoolgirl and is now facing the prospect of five years in jail.
The former England footballer was cleared of another count in which the girl was alleged to have performed a sex act on him.
Johnson had admitted grooming the girl and one count of sexual activity.
From around 2006, the club was known as SundIreland due to the involvement of the Drumaville consortium of Irish investors, which included Mr Chawke.
The consortium sold its stake the club in 2009.
While it was in charge, former Ireland international footballer Niall Quinn became its chairman.
There has been controversy over Sunderland's handling of the Johnson case, with media in England questioning whether he should have played during the trial.
In a statement, the club said that had it known he had planned to plead guilty he would have been sacked "immediately".
Speaking to the Herald, Mr Chawke said he now has no involvement in the club, and "wouldn't have been in the position" to hire or sack players.
Commenting on the controversy surrounding the club for retaining Johnson before the trial, Mr Chawke said: "Everyone deserves to be treated as innocent until they are proven guilty.
"You can't sack people until they are proven guilty."
Mr Chawke has more recently been concentrating on his pubs, which enjoyed increased profits last year.
Meanwhile, Johnson's manager, Sam Allardyce, has said the player's decision to plead guilty to child sex offences was a "massive shock".
He was playing for Sunderland until the start of his trial, but was sacked after changing his pleas and admitting to two charges on the first day.
"Justice has been done, he's let everybody down," Allardyce said.
Johnson's victim said she had been through the hardest year of her life.
At first, she said, meeting her hero had felt "surreal", but she now feels "used and let down".