The agent of the footballer Wayne Rooney was left terrified and in tears after being threatened over his contract with the teenage striker, a court heard yesterday.
Paul Stretford, who represents the footballer through his Proactive agency, complained to police after a meeting at a Cheshire hotel in June 2003. Warrington Crown Court heard Mr Stretford had gone to the hotel to meet the football agent Dave Lockwood, whose X8 firm had recently taken over Proform agency, which first represented Mr Rooney. John Hedgecoe, for the prosecution, said Mr Lockwood was trying to persuade Mr Stretford to sign an agreement in which he paid a cut of his Rooney earnings to a mystery company called Imra.
The meeting was then interrupted by John Hyland, a Liverpool-based boxing promoter and former British Olympic boxer who was part of the X8 team. He was accompanied by two men, the brothers Christopher and Anthony Bacon. The prosecution claimed that Mr Hyland, 42, shouted at Mr Stretford in an attempt to force him to sign the Imra agreement, while the Bacon brothers stood by and created an air of menace. All three deny blackmail by demanding money with menaces.
Describing the meeting, which Mr Stretford had secretly filmed and taped, Mr Hedgecoe said: "Hyland was grossly aggressive and intimidating. He demanded Stretford sign the contract that was on the table. He shouted and repeatedly banged his fist on the table. Anthony Bacon stood on one side of Stretford and Christopher Bacon leaned over Stretford as he sat at the table and spoke menacingly to Stretford.
"After a little over two minutes, the three men left the room. Stretford was terrified. Dave Lockwood gave the impression that he had not expected the intrusion and he continued to try to persuade Stretford to sign the contract but Stretford still refused. Stretford left the hotel and telephoned his security consultant from his car, telling him what had transpired, and he then burst into tears," said Mr Hedgecoe.
The court heard evidence yesterday from Wayne Rooney's father, Thomas, who said he had been happy with the work of Proform in representing his son but had decided to switch to Mr Stretford's company. He wrote to Proform in June 2002 declaring his intention not to renew Wayne's two-year contract with them that December.
Under cross-examination by Lord Carlile QC, for Mr Hyland, Mr Rooney Snr denied that Kenny Dalglish, the former Liverpool footballer, played any part in persuading them to join Proactive. Mr Rooney Snr said he was not aware that Mr Dalglish had two million shares in Proactive and insisted the former Scottish international had never visited Wayne Rooney's Croxteth home to talk to them. He said Mr Dalglish had telephoned him once and suggested joining a new agency but had not mentioned Proactive.
The case was adjourned and Mr Rooney Snr will continue to give evidence today.