Ipswich Town: Controversial striker Michael Chopra facing a new battle over race fixing allegations

IPSWICH TOWN: Blues fans were today divided over whether or not Portman Road ace Michael Chopra was a good investment after the striker was charged with bribing a jockey to throw a horse race.

The 28-year-old is one of three footballers to face race fixing allegations following a lengthy investigation by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA).

The charge relates to horses being laid to lose on betting exchanges in races that took place between November 1, 2010 and March, 31 2011.

The latest controversy follows a number of indiscretions in recent months following Chopra’s summer 2011 �1million transfer to Ipswich Town from Cardiff City, the Blues’ opponents tomorrow.

Last October, the former Sunderland and Newcastle player revealed how he was battling a gambling addiction which had seen him lose up to �2m betting. Chopra spent 21 days in rehabilitation at the Sporting Chance clinic, in Hampshire.

Then last December it emerged the club gave troubled Chopra around �250,000 to help pay off loan sharks as the scale of his gambling debts began to emerge.

The Blues’ chief executive Simon Clegg was called as a witness at Newcastle Crown Court to give evidence during a drugs trial. Chopra was not linked to the alleged drugs offences but had owed money to individuals linked to the case.

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He has also faced two driving charges, most recently appearing before magistrates in Chelmsford in December 2011 where he was banned from driving for 56 days.

Chopra also appeared at South East Suffolk Magistrates’ Court in Ipswich in 2009 where he was given a six-month driving disqualification and fined �400.

The striker was again in the headlines in March when he went on a drinking binge with former Town midfielder Jimmy Bullard in Newcastle. As a result, Chopra, who is one of the club’s highest paid players, was fined two weeks’ wages, while Bullard was suspended from the club for two weeks.

Meanwhile, the striker angered some fans last month when he took to Twitter to accuse some supporters of not having “a clue about football”.

The addition of yesterday’s revelations over race fix allegations have further split Town supporters – while some say they will refuse to pay to watch their team play while he is still on the club’s books, others say he “innocent until guilty”.

Liz Edwards, chair of the ITFC Supporters’ Club, said: “Hopefully this is one of the last steps on Chops’s road to redemption.

“The alleged offences do date back to some months before he joined ITFC, and we know from previous reports that the club have been very supportive of him in all kinds of ways.

“I hope he builds his form, adds to the season’s goal tally and continues to show the great attitude on the pitch that we saw at Brighton the other night.”

But Kyle Jennings, a member of the Spirit of ‘78 fans club who has supported the team for 51 consecutive seasons, said: “In this day and age we seem to have a small number of players who see it as a career and I think the rest see it as a lifestyle.

“This allegation is yet another kick in the teeth for people like me who pay for season tickets year after year. I want to see Chopra moved on.”

Irene Davey, chair of the Ipswich branch of the ITFC Supporters’ Club, urged fans to get behind the striker.

She said: “I do hope the club stand by him and I would call on other fans to do the same.”

n Have your say on the issue. Write to Your Letters at Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail starletters@archant.co.uk