‘Course was the eas­i­est three years of our lives in school’

Cynon Valley - - YOUR NEWS - ANNA LEWIS anna.lewis@waleson­line.co.uk

A STU­DENT who at­tended a bo­gus sports lead­er­ship scheme run by an exWales in­ter­na­tional foot­baller and for­mer Cardiff City player has de­scribed the ex­pe­ri­ence as the “eas­i­est three years of his life”.

A Pon­typridd stu­dent has told of at­tend­ing classes one day a week and be­ing told an­swers to work by for­mer pro­fes­sional foot­ballers Mark Ai­zle­wood and Paul Su­grue.

For­mer Cardiff City de­fender Mark Ai­zle­wood, 57, who also played for clubs in­clud­ing Leeds United and Charl­ton Ath­letic, and Paul Su­grue, 56 – whose clubs in­cluded Manch­ester City, Mid­dles­brough and Cardiff City – promised to help strug­gling young­sters gain an NVQ in ac­tiv­ity lead­er­ship.

They told col­leges across the coun­try they would pro­vide full-time train­ing in foot­ball coach­ing as well as work ex­pe­ri­ence and a £95 weekly stipend to 3,800 stu­dents.

But in reality hun­dreds of the stu­dents on their books didn’t even ex­ist, many lived at the op­po­site end of the coun­try from the train­ing scheme, while others were do­ing just two to three hours of study a week.

On Mon­day, Ai­zle­wood was con­victed of one count and Su­grue of two counts of con­spir­acy to com­mit fraud by false rep­re­sen­ta­tion by of­fer­ing the nonex­is­tent ap­pren­tice­ships through their firm Luis Michael Train­ing Ltd, at South­wark Crown Court in Lon­don.

Ai­zle­wood was also ac­quit­ted of a sec­ond count of con­spir­acy to com­mit fraud by false rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

Fol­low­ing their con­vic­tions a for­mer six­th­form pupil at Ys­gol Gy­fun Rhyd­fe­len in Pon­typridd said he was re­cruited on the lead­er­ship course by the two men nine years ago, after at­tend­ing a school meet­ing held by Ca­reers Wales.

The sports stu­dent, who did not want to be named, said: “I re­mem­ber speak­ing to Ca­reers Wales and one of the men walked into the of­fice and had a chat and asked if I wanted to come on the course.

“I had no idea what it was but I joined and they said it would be a laugh.”

After join­ing the full­time course the for­mer stu­dent said stu­dents soon be­came wary after be­ing told it would be held ev­ery Fri­day with no fur­ther lessons.

He said: “From the start it seemed a bit strange as it was one day a week on a Fri­day.

“As soon as we be­gan we were given these fold­ers and they said we would be work­ing through it and by the end we would have our NVQs.

“I just re­mem­ber go­ing in on a Fri­day and barely do any­thing. We would go down to the sports hall and play sports for a bit.

“One week it would be foot­ball, an­other week it would be cricket, an­other bas­ket­ball.

“Think­ing about it, it was ab­so­lutely ter­ri­ble but it all makes sense now.”

As the course pro­gressed stu­dents in the Rhondda school were also al­legedly “told what to write” in their course­work fold­ers.

The 26-year-old said: “The con­cern­ing thing was that they were telling us what to write in our files.

“There was no home­work and we never had any tasks. It was the eas­i­est three years of our lives in school – I barely turned up.”

On Mon­day the court heard that the foot­ballers gave stu­dents work ex­pe­ri­ence in their of­fice to com­plete tests, to make it seem like they had the min­i­mum level of maths and English com­pe­tency.

The Pon­typridd stu­dent said that while he can re­mem­ber fill­ing in the tests, the ma­jor­ity of time in the New­port of­fice was spent do­ing noth­ing.

He said: “They would say we’re all go­ing to the of­fice and we would do barely any­thing, we would just sit around all day.

“Once or twice they would make us do these tests, I re­mem­ber do­ing them. Within the whole com­pany I met about four peo­ple.”

After two years on the course the Pon­typridd group were also of­fered the chance to stay for an ad­di­tional year in sixth form to com­plete a sports as­ses­sor’s qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

De­spite the ex­tra time, how­ever, the Rhondda stu­dent has claimed he never re­ceived the cer­tifi­cate.

The Rhondda stu­dent said: “In our third year we were teach­ing the other years. At the time I had no idea what I was do­ing. I never got the cer­tifi­cate.

“We def­i­nitely didn’t learn any­thing, they were just mak­ing it easy for them­selves.”

Dur­ing the trial the pair – along with fel­low direc­tors Keith Williams, 45, and Christo­pher Martin, 53 – were found guilty of sub­mit­ting false ac­counts to col­leges to per­suade them to do busi­ness with the firm.

Williams was also con­victed of two counts of con­spir­acy to com­mit fraud by false rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

Foot­ball coach Jack Harper, 30, was con­victed of fraud and using a false in­stru­ment. He was ac­quit­ted of an­other count of con­spir­acy to com­mit false rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

Martin ad­mit­ted two counts of con­spir­acy to com­mit fraud by false rep­re­sen­ta­tion ahead of trial, along with Stephen Good­ing, 53, who ad­mit­ted one charge.

Judge Michael Tom­lin­son de­scribed the case as “very se­ri­ous” and ad­journed sen­tenc­ing un­til Fe­bru­ary 26.

Rhondda Cynon Taf coun­cil was con­tacted for com­ment.

VIC­TO­RIA JONES

For­mer Cardiff City player Paul Su­grue and for­mer Wales in­ter­na­tional Mark Ai­zle­wood

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