Macari 'had to break rules for sake of side'

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The Independent Online
'IF YOU don't break Football League rules, you haven't got a football side,' Lou Macari, the former Swindon Town football manager, told a court yesterday.

He told the jury in the football fraud trial at Winchester Crown Court: 'I'm not a cheat. I wanted to do the best for the players.'

Mr Macari, 43, said that house prices in Swindon were so high he had to make 'special arrangements' to attract players. But he denied that the action cheated other clubs in the Football League. He said: 'You know that other clubs in the country are doing exactly the same thing . . . I don't mean to be disrespectful, but the players I signed for Swindon Town were never wanted by anyone else. There was never a tug-of-war for their services.'

Mr Macari denied placing a bet on his team losing at Newcastle in the FA Cup, a game Swindon lost 5-0. He told the court it was placed by somebody else as 'an insurance' in case Swindon were knocked out at an early stage.

Money was tight at the club and players were forced to spend nights before away matches at army camps. Mr Macari said: 'There wasn't a lot of money around and these cost just pounds 5.50 a night. The players and I were never interested in staying at big hotels.'

But the night before the Newcastle game the local army barracks was full and the team was forced to stay at the nearby pounds 100 a night Gosforth Park Hotel. Club directors hoped the insurance of the bet would at least cover the high cost accommodation.

Mr Macari, now manager of Stoke City, said: 'There was no suggestion of the team deliberately losing.'

Earlier, Mr Macari told the jury he had nothing to do with tax-free payments which prompted a massive Inland Revenue investigation. He said he was 'a man only interested in football' who knew nothing about tax or accountancy.

Mr Macari, Brian Hillier, former club chairman, and Vivian Farrar, former accountant, deny cheating the Inland Revenue by making tax-free payments to players. The trial continues.