- Murdoch’s tabloid titles led a relentless and prolonged campaign to illegally acquire information
- The level of criminal intrusion was ‘obscene’, according to an ex-club official
- Players, managers and board members at Stamford Bridge were targeted by the News of The World
- However, allegations against The Sun have also been raised
- Phone hacking and email intervention left the former Premier League champions exposed for years
- Murdoch’s tabloids weren’t alone – as Mirror Group titles were equally guilty of criminal activity
- The contents of their illegal bounty were splashed over the front and back pages for years, undetected
RUPERT MURDOCH’s papers embarked on a relentless and prolonged campaign to criminally obtain information from Chelsea Football Club.
A former News Group insider described the illegal intrusion as ‘obscene’ and said it went on at an ‘unprecedented’ level, where no stone was left unturned to drain the club of information.
Allegations have also been levelled at The Sun, which has always denied or not admitted criminality, even though numerous claims of wrongdoing have been heard at the High Court.
The News and Sports departments at both papers are alleged to have collaborated by sharing illegal intelligence, resulting in illegally obtained stories that were splashed over the front and back pages.
The initial intrusion began under the ownership of Chelsea’s outspoken former owner Ken Bates, who ironically accused the News of the World of tapping his home phone.
Byline Investigates can now reveal that his concerns were not misplaced.
One former reporter told us that he caught sight of Bates’ home phone records at the paper’s then Wapping office, a revelation which adds weight to Bates’ suspicions.
The former reporter said: “I can’t categorically state they were tapping his (Bates’) phone, but they certainly had obtained his home phone records.
‘I was stunned at the information they had obtained, but as ever, they would attribute it to sources inside BT or someone close to Bates.’
The real source of the itemised billing data was a private investigator who had been illegally tasked by the News of the World’s news desk, before it was handed over.
Another insider at News Group claimed Bates’ hatred of Murdoch’s tabloid title and his public condemnation was a declaration of war, and that Murdoch himself had ordered a full-scale attack of the club.
“There was certainly no love lost between either Bates or Murdoch, and that was certainly the start of it. But even when Bates eventually sold out to Roman Abramovich the criminal activity continued. In fact, it’s fair to say it was ramped to another level.’
By this time other tabloid newspapers had caught on, so MGN titles the Sunday Mirror and Daily Mirror and The People were embarking on illegal operations of their own.
By the time oligarch Roman Abramovich breezed into Stamford Bridge News Corp’s criminal operation was at an all time high.
Sources have told Byline Investigates that information criminally obtained by The Sun allowed the paper to exclusively reveal the Russian was buying the club in 2003.
At this point News Group, along with other tabloid rivals, were hacking players, officials and players, not to mention intercepting emails and bribing officials for story tips.
Marquee players like Frank Lampard, the current Chelsea manager, John Terry and a host of household names were having their phones hacked.
Managers including Jose Mourinho, Claudio Ranieri and former CEO, Peter Kenyon were being illegally investigated, and at one point the entire board were under close surveillance.
An insider told us: “The illegal operation to obtain information was on a scale most people wouldn’t believe. News Corp, along with others, were literally draining the club of information obtained by illegal means.
“And they did it completely undetected. By the time Chelsea FC had become aware of it, it was too late.”
News UK deny any wrongdoing at The Sun.
When approached, Chelsea FC declined to comment.