Margaret Byrne has resigned as chief executive of Sunderland AFC in recognition of her flawed handling of the Adam Johnson affair.
When Johnson’s trial ended with a further conviction, on top of the Guilty pleas already entered, and with it the likelihood of a significant jail term, we reproduced SAFC’s statement and called it a “dignified response”. As far as it went, that was an accurate description. No one should be pre-judged; every accused person is entitled under our civilised procedures to the presumption of innocence until proved otherwise.
Unfortunately, the statement proved to be economical with the truth. The club would have been 100 per cent correct in leaving the fate of Johnson to the rule of law had it not been aware of the evidence against him that made Guilty please and/or conviction inevitable. It now seems to have been aware, and Ms Byrne – a former fellow-member of the SAFCSA London branch, I believe, and good company for travelling supporters on pre-season tours – has paid the price.
This is the club’s statement:
The board of Sunderland AFC has today accepted the resignation of Margaret Byrne. Margaret, in her role as CEO, was responsible for the running of the club. She was also accountable for the actions taken by the club in relation to Mr Johnson.
Sunderland AFC acknowledges that Margaret’s intentions have always been to act in the best interests of the club, however it has become clear through our own internal investigations that in this instance decisions have been taken by Margaret in error.
Whilst swift and decisive action was taken to terminate Mr Johnson’s employment upon his guilty plea, decisions taken prior to this, including the decision not to suspend him for a second time pending the outcome of the trial, were wrong.
In light of what has been acknowledged by Margaret as a serious error of judgment on her part, we have undertaken a full review of the club’s decision-making processes to ensure that there can be no such mistakes in the future.
Throughout this deeply regretful situation, we recognise that one devoted young fan and her family have been very badly let down, first and foremost by Mr Johnson and his despicable actions, but also by the club they support.
We are so very sorry for this. Mr Johnson lied to the club; he also lied to our fans and they have every right to feel aggrieved by this. Lessons have been learned and we hope that the club and its fans can move forward from this together.