The former operations manager of Fleetwood Town FC has been given 10 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, for a ticket refunds fraud.
David Holloway, 31, of Patterdale Avenue, Fleetwood, was found guilty of his involvement in an £8,000 ticket refund scam by jurors at Preston Crown Court.
He had denied abusing his position at the League One football club by fraudulently making false ticket refunds between July 2014 and June 2015.
But jurors found he had embarked on the scam along with another man, with Holloway giving excessive refunds totalling £4,696 for the 2014/15 and 2015/16 seasons.
Holloway, wearing a blue suit, watched from the dock as defending, Daniel Prowse said the impact of the crimes had already had a big impact on his life, with the proceedings leading to him and his wife separating and the end of his civil service career.
He said: “He is a man of effective good character.
“He’s also someone who has acted in a good manner in society over the years.
“References show a different side to this young man. He was, apart from these convictions, a very good employee who worked very hard.
“He was employed as a civil servant but of course the nature of this offence is that this career is closed to him.
“His employment background had always been area of trust and responsibility.
“He now manages his father-in-law’s bar.”
During Holloway’s trial, the court heard how refunds were purportedly given on match tickets for cash and the cash refunds were going into the pockets of Holloway and another man, David Hart, who admitted fraud.
The refunds were given after the kick-off of matches on tickets that had in fact been used - there was nothing to be refunded on the ticket.
The total sum of the loss to the club by these frauds was £4,696 for this defendant and £3,857 by Hart.
Holloway worked for the club for three years and Hart for a number of years in the ticket office.
Their scam came to light on February 25, 2016, a few days after a match against Scunthorpe, when the club’s chief executive Stephen Curwood was made aware of a discrepancy from the tills in the ticket office by financial controller Tom Barnes.
The cash in the ticket office tills was £94, a large discrepancy for a club the size of FTFC.
Ticket Office Manager Steve Metcalf launched a probe that showed an unusual transaction of a £100 cheque refund had been issued.
Analysis of the computer system showed a transaction after the game had kicked off carried out by Hart – refunding the ticket after the match had kicked off.
Jurors were told a variety of reasons were given by ‘dholloway’ for the refunds, the main one being a ‘prize giveaway’, as well as ‘under 16 pending’ and ‘visiting team coach driver’.
As a comparison, on the last match day before Mr Metclafe made his statement, on September 3 against Coventry City there was a single refund.
On the previous match day, there were two - but on the day of a game against MK Dons on April 14 2015, when the men were working in the ticket office together, Hart gave £110 of refunds and Holloway £205 worth, all within a five minute time frame at 10.30pm, despite the game finishing at 9.30pm
Fleetwood Town FC has since “tightened up” procedures for refunds, meaning fans who have bought a ticket but cannot then attend are no longer entitled to a refund.
Recorder Mark Ainsworth, imposing 200 hours of unpaid work and a two month curfew, said he was taking an exceptional course by not sending him straight to prison. He added: “You are a family man, you are married, you have a four year-old son. You have everything to lose.
“And you knew that when you embarked upon the course of conduct that brought you before this court.”
“The jury convicted you of fraud due to the abuse of your position.
“This has plainly had an impact on the club. This is not a case where it has caused a club to go under but nevertheless this is a club that couldn’t not afford to lose the best part of £5,000. And despite the overwhelming evidence against you you still took this to trial.”
Holloway must pay back the stolen cash as compensation at £200 a month.
Hart, 49, of Eamont Place, Fleetwood, was previously given a 24 week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.
The Gazette has approached Fleetwood Town FC for comment.