The West Brom players who apologised after allegedly stealing a taxi to get back to their Spanish hotel from a McDonald’s have been told the case against them has been shelved.
It was thought skipper Jonny Evans, 30, Gareth Barry, 36, Jake Livermore, 28 and Boaz Myhill, 35, could face a community service order or a fine after ‘borrowing’ the cab to get back to their beds and leaving their driver stranded.
But this morning a Barcelona court shelved its probe because of ‘lack of proof.’
Pictured clockwise from front left: Kieran Gibbs, Craig Dawson, Gareth McAuley, Jake Livermore, an unknown fan, Gareth Barry, Jonny Evans, Boaz Myhill, Chris Brunt and Grzegorz Krychowiak (obscured). Circled players (L-R): Livermore, Barry, Evans and Myhill are those that were involved in the incident
A local court official said: ‘Investigating Court Of Instruction Number Two in Barcelona dealt with the case.
‘The investigating magistrate decided to provisionally archive the case because with the documentation he had, he felt there wasn’t sufficient evidence to continue with the case against the players.
‘For the time being the case has been shelved although if new information appears it could be reopened.’
Evans has been named as one of the four West Brom senior players involved in the incident
A well-placed source said: ‘This decision signals the taxi driver decided against pressing charges.
‘If he had decided to press charges, the case would have been continued.
‘Without him on board, the police are never going to insist on the players being prosecuted off their own backs.
‘Something must have happened for the taxi driver to decide to drop his complaint. He was the one who got the McDonald’s staff to call police in the first place when he realised his taxi had gone.’
Ahead of confirmation of today’s court decision, it had been thought the players could receive a community service order lasting 31 to 90 days or a fine under Spanish law.
The four West Brom players were identified by police in a report handed to the investigating judge following the bizarre Thursday morning incident
The Premier League’s record appearance-holder Barry was also involved in the incident
They broke a midnight curfew and ended up in the 24-hour fast food restaurant at 5.30am.
McDonald’s duty manager Saray Ortega Gracia called cops when the driver told her his car had been taken as he ordered burgers for the players.
The 29-year-old said over the weekend: ‘The driver placed a big order – a Big Mac meal each and four chicken burgers and the bill was £27.95.
‘The driver got out to collect the order and one of the men got behind the wheel.
‘They thought it was funny but I felt sorry for him. I didn’t learn they were rich footballers until later. I hope the police deal with them.’
Police later confirmed they passed the players’ details on to an investigating court after racing to their five-star boutique hotel The One to recover the taxi following a call from a concerned receptionist.
Police were called after the players, who are on the club’s mid-winter training trip to Spain, were said to have driven a taxi from a McDonald’s drive through before abandoning it outside The One boutique hotel where they were staying
Livemore was one of the four players who released a statement through the club to apologise
Evans, stripped of the West Brom captaincy as punishment ahead of his side’s disastrous FA Cup exit on Saturday, has apologised along with his three teammates.
The bottom-of-the-table side has confirmed it has launched its own internal investigation into the incident, which occurred during a four-day warm weather training trip to Barcelona.
A source in Spain described the players as ‘looking worse for wear’ and said the taxi was taken at 5.30am on Thursday before being returned to its rightful owner at around 8am.
Back-up goalkeeper Myhill was involved in the alleged incident which took place in Barcelona
All four players released a statement apologising for ‘the events which have been the subject of widespread and negative publicity’ without going into details.
It continued: ‘We freely acknowledge and apologise for the break of curfew which we accept represented a breach of the standards of professionalism required of us as representatives of West Bromwich Albion.’
The club launched an internal investigation and it is expected all four will be fined two weeks’ wages for staying out far past the midnight curfew.
The drive-through the players allegedly took the taxi from is the McAuto on the Ronda Litoral, which is thought to open 24 hours. The hotel the players were staying at is a 10-minute drive away
The incident increases the scrutiny on Alan Pardew, who organised the trip having overseen only one Premier League victory in 13 games.
It is understood Pardew planned the break before West Brom defeated Liverpool in the FA Cup but pressed ahead despite winning at Anfield to set up Saturday’s tie with Southampton.
A number of players are said to have held reservations in advance about going abroad with just four days in between games. The West Brom manager accepted he faces an uncertain future after chairman John Williams and chief executive Martin Goodman were sacked by owner Guochuan Lai on Tuesday.
WEST BROM’S FULL STATEMENT
We would like to take this opportunity to apologise to our team-mates, the head coach, the club and especially the supporters for the events which have been the subject of widespread and negative publicity.
We felt it important we identify ourselves as the players involved in an incident which occurred during the training camp in Spain this week out of respect for team-mates who otherwise could be implicated by association.
We freely acknowledge and apologise for the break of curfew which we accept represented a breach of the standards of professionalism required of us as representatives of West Bromwich Albion FC.
The club has informed us that it will now conduct its own inquiry into the incident and we will co-operate fully.
In the meantime, we would like to assure our supporters that this incident does not reflect the determination and resolve we possess to do all we can to recover a difficult season.
That was the morning West Brom’s squad flew out to Barcelona for the mini-camp at Espanyol’s training complex. The team took a walk in the afternoon after landing, having lost 3-0 at Chelsea the previous night, before going through a session on Wednesday.
Pardew allowed his players to enjoy a team meal, with Kieran Gibbs, Craig Dawson, Gareth McAuley, Jake Livermore, Gareth Barry, Jonny Evans, Boaz Myhill, Chris Brunt and Grzegorz Krychowiak being photographed at a restaurant off La Rambla at around 9.30pm.
It has surprised insiders that Evans, Barry, Livermore, and Myhill — all highly experienced players — then broke the midnight curfew and became engaged in the activities that have brought embarrassment.
Manager Alan Pardew (pictured) had taken his bottom-of-the-table team away to try to turn around results that have left them seven points from safety
There were also allegations in Spain that Pardew returned to the hotel on Tuesday night having lost his phone and wallet following drinks. But it is understood Pardew’s jacket containing the items was stolen while he was in a restaurant.
The players’ statement added: ‘We felt it important we identify ourselves as the players involved in an incident which occurred during the training camp in Spain this week out of respect for team-mates who otherwise could be implicated by association.
‘In the meantime, we would like to assure our supporters that this incident does not reflect the determination and resolve we possess to do all we can to recover a difficult season.’
SUTTON ON BAGGIES SHAME
West Bromwich Albion are seven points from safety at the bottom of the Premier League.
They should be giving the impression that they are fighting for their lives.
Their predicament in the league accentuates the stupidity of all this — and that’s what it is, utter stupidity. The players have left themselves open to attack from supporters, who, after spending hard-earned money to watch their team, can justifiably ask: ‘Do these players really care?’
You also have to question whether players need this sort of break in the middle of the season.
Alan Pardew was trying to do the right thing and I suppose the theory was that a relaxing break could improve team spirit, but it has completely backfired. It was awfully bad judgment from the players and showed a lack of respect for the manager.
He will be furious, especially given he allowed them a night out and they broke a curfew.
The last thing you expect your players to do is break that trust.
I am sure the players will regret it, but they should have been more streetwise, especially given their league position.
They have now – allegedly – stolen as many taxis as Pardew has Premier League victories. From the outside, it just looks a mess.
Police were called after the footballers allegedly drove off in the cab from a McDonald’s drive-through and abandoned it outside their luxury five-star Spanish hotel before going up to their bedrooms (file picture)
Pardew, the former Newcastle, Crystal Palace and West Ham manager, said he was upset by the players’ actions.
‘We’ve gone there to get ourselves up for the run-in and this is obviously not ideal,’ he said. ‘They broke a curfew and that’s unacceptable and I feel a bit let down by that.’
But the manager defended his decision to take the break. ‘Burnley are away, Everton are away, Liverpool are away,’ he said.
‘We tried to get somewhere in a city where we could get good training and come together and unfortunately this incident has hampered that.’