07:05 GMT +322 July 2019
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    Adam Johnson, seen here playing for Sunderland in the Premier League in 2016, is due to be released from prison on 22 March 2019

    Lock Up Your Daughters: Should Ex-England Footballer be Allowed to Play Again?

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    In March 2016 England footballer Adam Johnson was jailed for six years for grooming a 15-year-old football fan and engaging in sexual activity with her while he was playing for Premier League team Sunderland.

    Adam Johnson, 31, is due to be released from jail on 22 March after serving just half of his sentence and debate is already brewing on social media about whether or not he should be allowed to play for another club in Britain.

    His trial at Bradford Crown Court heard Johnson, who won 12 caps for England and scored two goals for his country, groomed the schoolgirl using social media apps and then engaged in sexual activity with her in his Range Rover in January 2015.

    Judge Jonathan Rose said it was "calculated, considered and carefully orchestrated" abuse which stemmed from his celebrity status and the victim's adoration of Sunderland Football Club.     

    Johnson, who also played for Manchester City and Middlesbrough, is set to be released on licence later this month.

    Prison inmates in the UK usually serve half of their sentence behind bars and the other half in the community on licence, with conditions meaning they can be recalled to prison if they break them.

    In February 2017 Johnson's lawyers claimed in the Court of Appeal his sentence had been too harsh and was based on his notoriety as a sportsman.

    But his appeal was rejected.

    His sister Faye Johnson's former partner Steven Knox was jailed for 16 weeks for harassing Johnson's victim in a series of Facebook posts.

    Adam Johnson (right) celebrates with Wayne Rooney after scoring for England against Switzerland in 2010
    © AP Photo /
    Adam Johnson (right) celebrates with Wayne Rooney after scoring for England against Switzerland in 2010

    Johnson's trial heard he kissed the girl and sexually touched her at a secluded spot in County Durham after picking her up outside the team's Stadium of Light.

    Judge Rose said the girl suffered "severe psychological harm" and Johnson took advantage of "a young teenager's adoration of a successful celebrity."

    Sunderland were relegated from the English Premier League in May 2017.

    The club's chief executive Margaret Byrne resigned from the club after Johnson's conviction over her handling of the player but it was later revealed she received an £850,000 pay-off.

    Ms Byrne admitted to a "serious error of judgement" for allowing Johnson to play on for the club while he awaited trial despite him having privately admitted to an inappropriate relationship with the girl.

    Ironically Byrne's replacement as chief executive, Martin Bain, has been starring in a Netflix documentary, Sunderland 'Til I Die, about the club's disastrous 2017/18 season when they were relegated to the third tier of English football.

    Johnson would not be the first footballer to attempt to take up the game after a spell in jail.

    Welsh international Ched Evans was convicted of rape in 2012 and spent two years in prison before his conviction was quashed on appeal. He was cleared at a retrial.

    Evans was signed by Sheffield United after being acquitted and is currently on loan at Fleetwood Town, who are managed by former Manchester City and Newcastle star Joey Barton, who was jailed in 2008 for affray.

    West Bromwich Albion and Coventry City striker Lee Hughes was jailed for causing death by dangerous driving in 2004, but after being freed from prison had spells with Oldham, Notts County and Port Vale.

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