Referee stole cash from charity football league

Magistrates found Straughan guilty.

Magistrates found Straughan guilty. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A WESTON referee, who stole thousands from a football league which supports cancer patients and blind children, has been found guilty of theft despite claiming he accidentally left most of the cash on the roof of his car.

Michael Straughan took players’ subs at the end of games and on three occasions failed to bank the money into Leisure Leagues’ account, despite only working for them for less than a month.

Stephanie Bullock, the firm’s executive director, said: “I find it disgusting that people like this exist in our society.

“Those players are our valued customers and they paid their match fees in good faith thinking not only it was going to pay for their match but they were helping as we give the surplus to charities and good causes.”

Straughan is not a FA-qualified referee but officiated six-a-side football matches for Leisure Leagues at Worle Community School.

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He was employed on March 2, 2014 and managed five rounds of fixtures, two on Thursdays and three on Sundays that month.

While he banked about £1,500 in subs for the two Thursdays, he failed to hand over £2,321.60 from games played on March 9, 16 and 23 last year.

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Straughan told magistrates he went to bank £1,521 for the first two Sundays, but accidentally left the cash in a plastic bag on the roof of his car while he walked his daughter into school one morning.

He said he realised his mistake when walking to the bank and went back to the car but the money had gone.

However he did not call the police to report the money missing. He instead lied to the league, which supports charities including Cancer Research UK and the National Blind Children’s Society, saying he paid the cash into the wrong bank account.

Straughan, of Brompton Road, said: “Because it was a large sum of money, I panicked and lied about it. It was stupid of me. Having already lied, I needed to continue with it. I told the company I would pay back the money if it couldn’t be found.”

For the third amount, of £800.60, Straughan said the following week he left it and football equipment by the side of the pitch for a fellow referee to pick up, as per Leisure Leagues’ instructions.

However neither the other referee, nor Leisure Leagues’ manager Greg Allen, said that agreement was made and the money was never found. Mr Allen said the company would never agree to that because if the money went awry it would not know who was responsible.

Magistrates at North Somerset Courthouse found Straughan guilty on February 12. He has been released on unconditional bail and will be sentenced next month.

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