England

Ipswich Town gave Michael Chopra £250,000 gambling loan

Michael Chopra
Image caption Chopra signed a contract with Ipswich Town Football Club in June

A Championship footballer was given a £250,000 loan by his club to help pay off gambling debts, a court has heard.

Ipswich Town striker Michael Chopra, 27, received the bail out to help satisfy creditors, jurors were told.

Details of the debts emerged after Simon Clegg, Ipswich Town chief executive, was called to give evidence at a trial.

The case at Newcastle Crown Court involves four men who deny turning a Sunderland flat into a drugs "factory".

Prosecutors said £50,000 in cash found in a Jaguar car was drugs money.

Cash demand

But the defendants argue it was a cash payment made by Chopra as an instalment towards settling his debts.

The court heard people had been to Ipswich Town's training ground to demand cash from Chopra.

Mr Clegg, who gave evidence on Tuesday via video-link, said the club was aware of Chopra's debts when they signed him from Cardiff City in the summer.

Image caption Simon Clegg said Ipswich Town loaned money to Chopra

He estimated the total amount to be "somewhere in the region of quarter-of-a-million pounds".

Mr Clegg, former chief executive of the British Olympic Association, thought a "significant percentage" of that figure related to gambling.

"He certainly owed money to individuals down in Wales and others in the north of the country," said Mr Clegg.

"The best of my knowledge is they were not institutions, they were individuals - not the sort of people I would be going to if I wanted to borrow money."

Debt worries

Mr Clegg said Chopra was worried about the debts and confirmed the club had loaned him around £250,000 towards paying them off.

"He didn't go into too much detail but he made it very clear to me he had to pay the money back," said Mr Clegg.

"I was under the impression, and made certain assumptions relating to that, that he needed to pay the money back or he would find himself in trouble."

Chopra, formerly of Newcastle United and Sunderland, recently spent three weeks receiving rehabilitation for his problems.

Prosecutors claim Joseph Lewins, 53, of Washington; Daniel Chisholm, 49, of Sunderland; Christopher Bacon, 31, of Sunderland; and John Somerville, 51, of Newcastle, conspired together to supply class A drugs between April and November last year.

All four deny the charge and the trial continues.

Ipswich Town declined to comment.

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