• British Horseracing Authority announces charges
• Jockey Andrew Heffernan charged with stopping horses
The Championship footballers Michael Chopra and James Coppinger, and the jockey Andrew Heffernan, are among nine individuals who could face long bans from racing after they were charged with serious breaches of the anti-corruption rules by the British Horseracing Authority on Thursday.
Yogesh Joshee, Chopra's agent, also faces charges, along with Mark Wilson, a former player with Manchester United, Paul Garner, a former stable lad, Kelly Inglis, who is believed to have been Heffernan's girlfriend at the time of the offences, Douglas Shelley and Pravin Shingadia.
The charges against them include offering bribes, exploiting inside information for personal gain and in the case of Heffernan, three charges that he intentionally failed to ensure that a horse was ridden on its merits.
The BHA charges follow an investigation into suspicious betting patterns on a number of races at Britain's four all-weather racecourses between November 2010 and March 2011. In all, nine races are at the heart of the BHA's case, including four at Southwell, three at Lingfield and one each at Wolverhampton and Kempton.
In three of those races, Heffernan is alleged to have intentionally "stopped" his horse, knowing that it had been laid to lose on a betting exchange. The horses concerned were Wanchai Whisper, who finished second at 9-2 in a handicap at Lingfield on 28 January 2011; Gallantry, sixth of eight at 11-1 in a handicap at Kempton on 2 February 2011; and Silver Guest, last of nine when 6-1 for a minor race at Lingfield on 9 February 2011.
Heffernan is also charged with passing inside information for reward about the prospects of his rides in the races concerned and offering to receive or receiving a bribe. The remaining eight individuals, none of whom are licensed by the BHA, are all charged with using information from Heffernan to place bets on betting exchanges.
Chopra, Joshee, Shelley, Wilson and Garner are further charged with offering bribes to Heffernan. Inglis is alleged to have connived with Heffernan to receive the bribe and Garner is charged with laying bets on horses from the yard of Alan McCabe, a racehorse trainer, at a time when he was employed there.
Chopra, a striker, started his football career at Newcastle United and now plays for Ipswich Town. Coppinger, who also started his career in the north-east, is an attacking midfielder and winger with Nottingham Forest, having made 300 league appearances for Doncaster Rovers between 2004 and 2012. Wilson was one of Coppinger's team-mates at Doncaster between 2006 and the end of last season, making 140 league appearances for the club.
Heffernan is the only individual among those charged who is licensed by the BHA. None of the footballers involved in the case have ever been registered racehorse owners but Chopra stated in November 2011 that he had been treated for a gambling addiction which he estimated had cost him between £1.5m and £2m.
No date has yet been set for the hearing into the case. The Football Association, which had been informed of the investigation by the BHA, will not decide what action to take, if any, until the outcome of the hearing.
The alleged offences involved in the case would carry penalties of disqualification from racing for between six months and 10 years for non-licensed individuals, and up to 25 years for Heffernan were he found guilty of deliberately stopping a horse. Heffernan now rides in Australia where, due to a reciprocal agreement with the BHA, any suspension would still take effect.
Paul Scotney, the BHA's integrity, compliance and licensing director, said that the investigation had been "complex and time-consuming".
He added: "We hope that the announcement demonstrates our commitment to deterring and detecting wrongdoing and taking action against those who we believe to have breached the rules.
"However, racegoers and those betting on British racing should be reassured that instance of this nature are extremely rare and that the overwhelming majority of races are free of suspicion."