Ice hockey team walks away from boss named on US sex offenders list
Published 19/02/2013 | 12:04
A businessman who took over the Belfast Giants ice hockey team is on a sex offenders register in the US, it has emerged.
Christopher Knight (39) had bought a majority shareholding in the ice hockey team — but players and staff have now walked away from their contracts.
The deal struck last November was reputedly worth £145,000.
But his reign hit the rocks after just two months when the company that operates the arena — the Odyssey Trust — moved against Mr Knight after claiming “major issues” came to its attention.
It has since emerged Mr Knight appears on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement website.
The US investor, whose address is given as West Sussex in England, was charged in 2003 with lewd or lascivious battery, which means he is alleged to have engaged in sexual activity with a person aged between 12 and 15, and he remains on the sex offenders register.
But speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Mr Knight claimed he was never convicted of the charges. He added that he has legal representatives addressing the issue he described as “an error”.
“I am in the process of trying to have that removed,” he said. “It was an error on their part (the Florida Department of Law Enforcement), is the best that I can state because that website is for people who are convicted and I have never been convicted.”
Meanwhile, the Belfast Giants have now signed new contracts to be paid for by the Odyssey Trust, a charitable company that oversees the Odyssey Arena, meaning the Giants will be able to fulfil their remaining fixtures.
General manager Todd Kelman resigned from Mr Knight's company in the days prior to the players' actions. He has been taken on as a consultant with the trust.
Chairman of the Odyssey Trust Brian Burke insisted the future of the team is secure. “We became aware of major issues relating to the new owner of the Belfast Giants on February 1,” said Mr Burke.
“We immediately moved to protect the Odyssey complex by conditionally terminating the Belfast Giants (2008) Ltd's contract to play at the Arena while entering into a ‘without prejudice’ agreement to ensure the team continued with its games and its commitment to the league and its fans until the end of the season.”
Mr Burke said it had not been an easy period for the team.
“We would also like to assure the loyal Belfast Giants fans that we are committed to protecting the excellent reputation and long-term future of the team.”
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