Manchester United have admitted they invited a convicted paedophile to Old Trafford as a “special guest” before discovering his crimes.
Geoff Konopka was the manager of United’s first women’s team from 1983 to 2001. In 2011 he was sentenced to four years in prison and placed on the sex offenders’ register for a decade, after being found guilty of 19 counts of indecent assault and gross indecency against girls under 16 years old.
The 79-year-old was welcomed back to the club last year to attend a Women’s Super League match against Everton, where many children were among the 20,000 spectators, despite having an “active suspension” on the Football Association’s safeguarding system which prohibited him from working in the game.
United say they were unaware of Konopka’s past when he was invited to the match, and they have now cut all ties. He had been celebrated in the Old Trafford museum but has now been removed.
Former players had emailed United officials to express “disgust” at seeing pictures of Konopka on the club’s website last summer. The episode was then laid bare in an investigation by The Times, which submitted evidence of Konopka’s convictions to the club.
The club responded: “Manchester United has recently received information around these convictions, and as a matter of urgency has been in contact with the relevant legal and football authorities to substantiate the facts.
“The club has taken appropriate action after receiving this information and will have no further connection with the individual. Manchester United expresses its heartfelt sympathy to the victims and all those affected by these abhorrent crimes.”
Konopka told The Times his crimes were “historical” and took place 30 years before his sentencing, before he worked at Manchester United on a voluntary basis.