Trading in shares in Birmingham City football club was suspended on the London Stock Exchange on Thursday amid an investigation into suspected corruption, the Stock Exchange said.
Trading in the English Premiership club’s stock was halted pending a further announcement, after it emerged that managing director Karren Brady and co-owner David Sullivan had been interviewed.
Brady and Sullivan were arrested on Wednesday and questioned and bailed by officers from City of London’s economic crime unit, who raided the club’s offices last month.
The club later issued a statement which said: “We wish to make it plain that David, Karren and Birmingham City FC deny absolutely any wrong-doing.”
It added that the police investigation is focusing on payments to a football agent and two players which date back to 2002/03.
The club said it was cooperating fully with police and said there was “no allegation that any director of the company or the club itself has benefited financially from any of this activity.”
An investigation concluded last year by former London police chief John Stevens probed 362 transfers involving English clubs and found that 17 of them could not be cleared as legitimate.
Brady, 39, is a rare female figure in the male-dominated world of football club membership.
Sullivan, the multi-millionaire former proprietor of the Daily Sport and Sunday Sport tabloid newspapers, owns Birmingham City with brothers David and Ralph Gold.
Shares in Birmingham City had been trading at 35.5 pence until the suspension announcement which came half an hour before the start of London trading.
The club based in central England are currently 17th in the league, just one place above the relegation places.
McLeish adamant off-pitch troubles won’t distract team
Alex McLeish is adamant he won’t allow the latest controversy involving Birmingham City to distract him from the business of keeping the Midlands side in the Premier League.
McLeish, City’s manager, has already experienced the storm that followed Martin Taylor’s tackle on Arsenal forward Eduardo last month and the battle to avoid relegation to the Championship has now been overshadowed by the arrest in a corruption probe of directors Karren Brady and David Sullivan, who are currently on bail.
McLeish met Brady on Thursday morning before training as Birmingham released a terse statement insisting both she and O’Sullivan were innocent of any wrong-doing.
And with a significant game against Everton looming on Saturday, in which a victory will almost certainly secure Birmingham’s safety, McLeish is determined not to let outside influences impinge upon his players, who head into the weekend four points above the bottom three.
“As far as I’m concerned we have to get on with the football business and I am sure the other stuff will take care of itself,” McLeish said. “I have not seen anybody walking about worrying what is going to happen next.”
The former Scotland manager added: “I’m sure it is something Karren and David will sort out. I’m sure the players will be talking about it in the dressing-room. We have seen other incidents and they seem to be a part of football life at the moment – it seems to be in vogue.
“But I am confident David and Karren will be okay. They have broad shoulders to take it as fans tend to pounce on anything. I’ll stick to the football as it’s a long time since I’ve done any accountancy stuff.”
The timing has not been ideal for McLeish, on the back of a dismal 2-0 defeat at Wigan Athletic last weekend that leaves his side dangerously near the drop zone.
If Bolton Wanderers manage to beat West Ham United and Birmingham lose to Everton, it promises to be a excruciating end to the season for McLeish.
“We could have had a wee bit more (points) but I think that is a good return for a squad who weren’t given a prayer at the start of the season.
“We just have to be ready for the next challenge and that is Everton. Our aim is to put a smile on everyone’s face.
“We didn’t do well at Wigan last week. The players are far better than they showed and I expect a reaction from them.”
Just one question – why is every paper showing pictures of Karen Brady as if she’s just been discovered? Granted, the lady is more photogenic than Sullivan but still,