Footballers' lives: Yet another club lands in the dock

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The Independent Online

Following their side's dismal recent form, the management of Leicester City had hoped a week at the exclusive La Manga resort in southern Spain would provide the perfect tonic.

Following their side's dismal recent form, the management of Leicester City had hoped a week at the exclusive La Manga resort in southern Spain would provide the perfect tonic.

The pampering, after all, had worked for the stars of Real Madrid and Chelsea ­ both recent visitors to the Costa Calida retreat.

But last night the club's plans were in tatters as a depleted squad were back home earlier than scheduled while six of their colleagues languished in a Spanish jail facing charges relating to an alleged attack on three women guests at the hotel.

According to staff at the Regency Hyatt La Manga, the players befriended the three women ­ believed to be in their 30s and Africans living in Germany ­ shortly after they arrived on Sunday night after their match against fellow Premiership strugglers Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Staff told police that the players were apparently drunk and were pestering other guests. Tony Coles, the managing director of the La Manga resort, said: "The players were being boisterous that night. The security guards here told them to quieten down, and they did exactly as they were told."

According to police, the three women claimed that at around 5am the players broke into their rooms and they were sexually assaulted.

The alleged victims gave the police a bracelet, which was apparently broken in the alleged attack, as well as torn underwear stained with blood.

Spanish police say that they were found to have suffered injuries when examined by doctors at the nearby Alicante general hospital.

Mr Coles said the three women checked out of the hotel on Monday and spent that night in Alicante. They were at Alicante airport preparing to fly to Germany when they decided to report the alleged incident to the police.

According to police, they separately identified by photograph the footballers alleged to have carried out the assaults, and the level of involvement of each one of them. Police then arrested nine players. Last night, Leicester's chief executive, Tim Davies, said that three of the players had been released. Steffen Freund had been released without charge earlier in the day after being questioned over leaving a crime scene without offering assistance. Danny Coyne and Nikos Dabizas were released pending further questioning about their involvement in the alleged attack.

Six players players remained in custody last night, though Mr Davies said they had not yet been charged with any offence. They were believed to be Matt Elliott, Keith Gillespie, Lilian Nalis, Paul Dickov, Frank Sinclair and James Scowcroft.

Passing through a scrum of journalists outside the magistrate's court in Cartagena, the players appeared individually before a judge yesterday.

Dabizas, Coyne and Elliot are believed to have been questioned over accusations of breaking and entering and failing to assist the women. Gillespie was being questioned over assault and breaking and entering. Nalis, Dickov, Scowcroft and Sinclair were being investigated for sexual assault and breaking and entering.

In a statement, police said: "Agents of the judicial police, of the Cartagena division of the national police, arrested nine people, all members of English football club Leicester City, in relation to a sexual assault alleged by three women."

The manager Micky Adams' choice of venue is questionable since it was at La Manga in 2000 where Leicester City players hit the headlines for misbehaviour. Stan Collymore let off a fire extinguisher in a bar and the squad were asked to leave the hotel. Collymore was fined two weeks' wages. The allegations follow a series of high-profile incidents which have compounded football's reputation for producing highly-paid young men behaving badly. Rio Ferdinand's "forgotten" drugs test and Collymore's recent confession that he had been indulging in the practice of "dogging" have further tarnished the game's image.

Mr Davies said that the club was co-operating fully with the authorities in Spain.

"It has come as a tremendous shock to all our players. They are vigorously denying everything," he said.

Mr Adams, said that he did not wish to comment, but said that he was "devastated".

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