- Murdoch employees had FA staff under ‘near non-stop’ illegal surveillance, according to FA insiders
- High-ranking sports officials, England managers and a raft of clerical staff were routinely targeted at football’s ruling body.
- Mirror Group Newspapers even hacked the husbands and wives of victims to pick-up soccer gossip.
- Hacking and the interception of emails continued long after criminality came to light.
- Information obtained illegally was plastered on the front and back pages of tabloid papers
- FA hierarchy were convinced that leaks were coming from inside the organisation sparking several internal investigations.
- The Sun and the News of the World threatened to expose private information.
THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION was illegally rinsed of private information as Murdoch newspapers embarked on a secret operation to infiltrate football’s governing body.
The Sun and the News of the World hacked phones and intercepted emails on an industrial scale, according to ex-FA officials who have spoken to Byline Investigates.
Editors plastered the product of their unlawful surveillance over the front and back pages of their newspapers.
The Wapping titles weren’t alone, as rival mastheads – including the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and The People – followed suit, leaving the FA so exposed that they were powerless to prevent the tabloids from draining their organisation of information.
The voicemails of FA chairmen, CEOs, England managers, media, commercial and clerical staff were listened to.
Amongst those repeatedly hacked were at least THREE former Chief Executives including Adam Crozier, Mark Palios, and Brian Barwick.
Others targets included ex-FA chairman Geoff Thompson, former Executive Director David Davies, and Trevor Brooking, the FA’s current Director of Football Development
The itemised phone bills of Ex-England managers Glenn Hoddle, Kevin Keegan, Sven Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello were obtained by private investigators.
But the net spread to FA board members, media staff and clerical workers including secretaries to key personnel.
The News of the World – which blew the lid on the infamous affairs of secretary Faria Alam, with both her boss Mark Palios and then England coach Sven Goran Eriksson – uncovered the initial details of these stories following extensive phone hacking.
It forced the resignation of both Palios and Communications Director Colin Gibson, who tried to trade information about Eriksson’s affair with Alam in a failed bid to protect Palios.
One former FA executive told Byline Investigates: “Like any big organisation, their were bound to be leaks from time-to-time, but this was on an unprecedented level, leading to claims that people inside the organisation were selling information to the newspapers.
“It led to paranoia and widespread distrust, which undermined the FA, and left certain people exposed because the papers had illegally obtained information that compromised certain individuals.”
Murdoch’s tabloid titles were particularly adept at exploiting the illegally obtained information to maximum effect, according to well-placed sources.
Our reporters have learned of cases in which reporters tried to ‘wash’ hacked voicemails, by persuading compromised FA officials to legitimately confirm stories and provide on-the-record quotes.
In other instances, the News of the World let it be known that they had damaging stories about their private lives.
A former FA executive told us: “There were certain individuals inside the organisation, and in position of power, who had a lot to lose if newspapers threatened to expose them.
“It was also common knowledge, that certain people had been approached by newspapers and told to assist them.”
A former reporter at the News of the World added: “The hacking of the FA was common knowledge. You don’t keep that a secret.
“They were targeting everyone, and the more they dug, the more dirt they found.
“You had key employees having affairs, England managers acting inappropriately and FA employees stabbing each other in the back.”
Former journalists at SunSport, contacted by Byline Investigates, refused to deny claims that the paper was paying someone inside the FA to divulge information about the organisation.
While there was evidence to suggest there were leaks, Murdoch’s people openly fuelled rumours of pay-off to football bosses as a smoke screen to divert attention away from the real source of their tip-offs, namely the dark arts.
The Mirror Group, with more limited resources than Murdoch’s operation, did appear to have someone at the FA on the payroll, and that information was used to target key individuals, who were then hacked.
Even when newspaper blagging was exposed in 2003, and phone hacking three years later, Murdoch’s tabloids continued to hack the FA.
Byline Investigates knows of at least four FA employees who were forced to change their phones repeatedly because of suspicious activity.
A few of the victims, such as Keegan, Alam, Eriksson, Hoddle and Davies have successfully gone on to sue News Group Newspapers in the High Court, or while others been given pay outs from the company’s secret Compensation Scheme.
However, the vast majority of those at the FA who fell victim to criminality, have refused to submit claims, even though they were advised to pursue the papers by the FA lawyers, and shown evidence by the Metropolitan Police.