Footballer's agent held in fraud probe

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The Independent Football

An England footballer's former agent was arrested today after the star made a complaint to police about how his affairs were handled.

Middlesbrough winger Stewart Downing approached his club with worries about his finances, and the Football Association became involved.

A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said a 50-year-old man and a 43-year-old woman from Newcastle were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering.

Police would not name the arrested couple today.

Downing split with his former agent Ian Elliott, who is licensed by Fifa, earlier this year.

The police spokeswoman said: "Cleveland Police can confirm that officers from their economic crime unit (fraud section) have this morning arrested a 50-year-old man and a 43-year-old woman from the Newcastle upon Tyne area on suspicion of offences of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering.

"They are currently being questioned by police at a police station in the Northumbria area."

Middlesbrough FC said the player had expressed concerns about his finances for some time, and officials advised him to bring in legal and financial experts.

In a statement, the club said: "Middlesbrough Football Club can confirm that it was approached some time ago by Stewart Downing with concerns he had regarding the way his and his company's affairs have been handled.

"The club advised him to involve lawyers and accountants to investigate these concerns.

"Having established his position, Stewart made a formal complaint to Cleveland Police who have since been investigating matters.

"This led to the arrest today of a man and a woman relating to the investigation.

"The Football Association are aware of the position and are continuing to monitor its progress."

An FA spokesman said: "The FA can confirm that it was made aware by Middlesbrough FC of concerns relating to the actions of a licensed football agent in connection to their player Stewart Downing's financial affairs.

"The FA then acted as liaison between the club and Cleveland Police.

"We will continue to liaise with both parties to ensure that any potential breaches of football regulations are dealt with at the appropriate time."