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Saturday 18 November 2017

€1m for boss who quit after 'serious error' over Johnson

Margaret Byrne
Margaret Byrne

Former Sunderland chief executive, Irish businesswoman Margaret Byrne, received a pay-off worth more than €1m after resigning in the wake of Adam Johnson's conviction on child sex offences.

The club's latest full accounts revealed that Ms Byrne was paid €1.4m during the year to July 31, 2016, just over €1m of it in "compensation for loss of office".

She resigned on March 8 last year after admitting to "a serious error of judgment" in allowing Johnson, who had initially been suspended by the club after being arrested on allegations of having sex with a 15-year-old girl, to return and play a part in the Black Cats' ultimately successful fight against relegation at the end of the 2014-15 season.

Johnson, who had signalled his intention to deny all charges, was allowed to carry on playing until his trial last year at Bradford Crown Court.

There, he stunned the club by admitting two charges of grooming the girl and kissing her. He went on to be convicted of one further charge of sexual activity with a child.

"Contrary to what has been suggested, I did not understand that Mr Johnson intended to change his plea at trial or at all. I was astounded when he did plead guilty," Ms Byrne said in a statement released after her resignation was announced.

"I accept that Mr Johnson should not have been permitted to play again, irrespective of what he was going to plead.

Serious

"It was a serious error of judgment and I accept full responsibility for this."

Johnson, who was sacked by Sunderland after entering his guilty pleas, is currently serving a six-year prison sentence.

Details of Ms Byrne's compensation payment were not included in headline financial figures released by the club last week.

Byrne, from Dromintee in south Armagh, last year set up a new sports management agency, First For Players.

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