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Premier League players advised of personal security risks

Wed 21st Apr 2010 | Money & Finance

The Professional Footballers' Association’s (PFA) chief executive Gordon Taylor feels that players should consider getting private bodyguards as they are vulnerable to intimidation and extortion according to the an article in the Telegraph. This warning was made on Saturday following news that a high-level player has been paying £15,000 every three months as protection money to a London gang.

The World Football programme of BBC World Service reported that players' relatives are becoming the targets along with the players themselves. A member of a south London gang told BBC, "The people above me have ordered this person that he has to pay them a certain amount of money every couple of months. That’s just in case, so no one can touch you for three or four years but you are still paying that money every three months to keep yourself safe. It may not seem a lot to a Premier League footballer but it’s a lot of money.”

Another unnamed source from Merseyside also claimed that players had paid up as much as £100,000 to avoid revealing pictures of time spent in brothels and lap-dancing clubs from being released to the media.

Taylor says, “Football reflects society and sometimes society can be not very pleasant. If these threats are a reality it’s a terribly intimidating thing for the player concerned. Clubs and players are a lot more conscious about security, we have made them aware of this, and there’s a strong need for private security to go alongside the police. It’s not a massive issue but we’ve seen enough examples in recent times of players’ houses being targeted while they’re away and teams suffering security scares for it to be taken seriously. Ultimately, it’s something that clubs and players have to discuss with the police and their security people.”

David Beckham's former bodyguard Paul Hughes, who now runs Benchmark Security, also painted a picture of player vulnerability with regard to matters of security. “I believe it has already happened, it’s an ongoing thing in the north east from what I have been told. Most of your players are up-and-coming lads from the council estates and have still got all these contacts with people from when they were hanging around on street corners. When these other people see the money they have got they are contacting them....Hughes said players and their families were easy targets. They are so easy it’s ridiculous and I think the clubs and the FA need to do a lot more to protect them and their families.”

Speaking of the South African World Cup, Hughes said, “I think the players are going to be so well looked after following the Togo incident. But I think the targets are more their family and friends over there in their own place, with their own little villas and their own drivers. That could certainly affect the players.”

Most cases of extortion or player blackmail do not become public but in September 2008 the case of Ashley Timms, the then Manchester City goalkeeper, and his effort to blackmail an unnamed player did come to light and earned him 20 months jail time.

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