Football: Sacked spot-fixing suspect denies wrongdoing

LONDON (AFP) - A football player sacked by Oldham Athletic after being arrested in a spot-fixing investigation said on Wednesday that he "vehemently denies" the allegations.

Cristiano Montano had his contract terminated by the English third-tier club on Monday, having been one of six players arrested earlier this month by the National Crime Agency (NCA) - Britain's equivalent of the FBI - following a newspaper expose.

The 22-year-old Colombian and the five other men were bailed until April by the NCA, which is yet to bring any charges against them.

Oldham cited "gross misconduct" as their reason for sacking Montano, having initially suspended him, but he has criticised the club for not letting him put across his side of the story.

In a statement, Montano's barrister Roy Ledgister said his client was "disappointed" and would appeal against the club's decision, which he described as "illogical as it appears no proper investigation was carried out".

The statement added: "The club would usually have interviewed their player as part of their investigation, instead they chose to engage in 'lengthy discussions' with their lawyers.

"Cristian has at all times been available to speak with them and naturally, as is his right, would have liked to have made sure that the club and its fans understood his denial of wrongdoing.

"It appears, however, that he has been pre-judged by the club on the inconclusive material presently available.

"He vehemently denies being involved in spot-fixing and welcomes the criminal investigation, with which he will fully co-operate."

Oldham's lawyers had explained Montano's sacking in a statement, saying that "the player's conduct, in not only bringing the name of Oldham Athletic but also the football authorities into disrepute, amounts to very serious breaches of club discipline, and therefore constitutes gross misconduct".

Born in Colombia, Montano moved to London as a child. He joined West Ham United as a trainee and signed as a professional in August 2010, but did not make any first-team appearances.

The east London club loaned him out to lower-league sides Notts County (twice), Swindon Town, Dagenham and Redbridge, and Oxford United, before he signed for Oldham in August 2012.

Founder members of the Premier League in 1992, Oldham were relegated two years later.