Sunderland CEO Byrne resigns over Johnson case
Sunderland’s chief executive Margaret Byrne announced her resignation on Tuesday after admitting to making “a serious mistake” in her handling of the Adam Johnson affair.
“I recognise that, as CEO, my involvement with Mr Johnson and the decision to allow him to continue to represent Sunderland was a serious mistake,” Byrne said in a statement.
Sunderland allowed Johnson, 28, to continue playing for them for nearly a year despite knowing that he had admitted to kissing a 15-year-old girl.
He was sacked by Sunderland last month after he admitted to grooming the girl and one count of sexual activity with her. He is awaiting sentencing after being convicted last week of a more serious sexual activity offence.
The club said they had been unaware that Johnson intended to plead guilty to two of the charges facing him, but children’s charities said that he should have been suspended anyway.
In a statement, the Sunderland board said that it had accepted Byrne’s resignation.
“Sunderland AFC acknowledges that Margaret’s intentions have always been to act in the best interests of the club,” it said.
“However it has become clear through our own internal investigations that in this instance decisions have been taken by Margaret in error.”
Johnson, capped 12 times by England, has been told to expect a sentence of up to 10 years.
The club had stated Johnson told them he intended to deny all the charges against him.
“Contrary to what has been suggested, I did not understand that Mr Johnson intended to change his plea at trial or at all,” said Byrne.
“I was astounded when he did plead guilty.
“I accept that Mr Johnson should not have been permitted to play again, irrespective of what he was going to plead.”
Byrne said she recommended to the Sunderland board that Johnson should be allowed to play on last year because he was fighting the charges and was “innocent until proven guilty”.
“It was a serious error of judgement and I accept full responsibility for this.
“Mr Johnson’s victim has endured a terrible ordeal and for that I am truly sorry.”