Football agent involved in Emiliano Sala’s deal from Nantes to Cardiff rejects claims by the coroner he should have checked the plane’s safety before tragic crash killed the footballer… as the thought ‘never crossed my mind’
- The inquest into Emiliano Sala’s tragic death via plane crash is continuing
- The footballer was on a flight from France to the UK when his plane crashed
- The agent who arranged the flight has refused claims he should have asked about the safety of the plane
- Willie McKay was commissioned to arrange the footballer’s transfer in 2019
A football agent who organised the flight in which footballer Emiliano Sala was killed has rejected suggestions by a coroner that he should have asked about the safety of the aircraft and the identity of the pilot.
Willie McKay was challenged by Dorset senior coroner Rachael Griffin about why he could not remember the details of the day of Sala’s death and why he did not go to greater to lengths to know how the player was being flown to France and back on a flight, after becoming Cardiff City’s record signing in 2019.
McKay said: ‘When you use a taxi do you ask the driver if he’s insured or has a licence? It never crossed my mind.’
The coroner responded: ‘With the greatest of respect, Mr McKay, driving a taxi is very different to flying a plane.’
McKay replied: ‘Well, you know, hey-ho. That’s the last time I will try to do that again, to help somebody.’
Football agent Willie McKay, involved in the Emiliano Sala deal from Nantes to Cardiff, has rejected the notion he should have asked about the safety of the aircraft that killed the player
Sala was due to join Cardiff from Nantes but his plane over the UK crashed in January 2019
When McKay appeared to have difficulty recalling the details of that day, the coroner told him: “You seem to have a very good memory about football matches and goals scored, Mr McKay.’
He replied: ‘It was getting late. I was thinking who else could do it (fly Mr Sala).’ McKay asked aircraft operator David Henderson, who called on pilot David Ibbotson. bbotson and Sala both died when the plane crashed into the sea off Guernsey. McKay said he had used Henderson for 14 years.
McKay lay blame for the death at the door of Cardiff City. He told the inquest, at Bournemouth town hall, that Sala was ‘abandoned’ by the club after they signed him for £15million.
McKay said: ‘He asked me to help get him over to France. I paid for it myself. I felt he was abandoned by Cardiff City. Someone (from the club) sent a WhatsApp about a flight to Paris which wasn’t much use because he lived in Nantes – five hours away.
McKay admitted that the thought of checking about the plane ‘never crossed his mind’
‘When you consider the owner of the club is a millionaire, you would think he’d do something to try to solve the situation. I only tried to help him to get there to say goodbye to his teammates.’
McKay described the 28-year-old footballer as a ‘boy just abandoned by a football club who had bought him for £15 million’. He said: ‘If it was my son, I’d like to think someone would do something to help him.’
The inquest heard how Mr McKay, an agent representing footballers for more than 30 years, helped bring about Sala’s transfer from Nantes to Cardiff City. He helped arrange ‘eight or nine flights’ between Nantes and Cardiff for the Blue Birds’ then-manager, Neil Warnock, to see him play.
McKay said he was trying to help his son, Mark McKay, who represented Nantes FC and was commissioned by them to find a buyer for Mr Sala.
McKay (above) was commissioned by French club Nantes to find a buyer for striker Sala
The pair met with Sala and Callum Davies, Cardiff City’s Player Liaison Officer, at a hotel bar after the transfer was complete on January 18, 2019. It was then than Mr McKay claimed he felt compelled to help Mr Sala after realising the club had no plans to get him home.
McKay denied being told by Henderson that there were concerns about the safety of the aircraft after the outward flight to Nantes on January 19 – just two days before the fatal crash.
Sala’s body was discovered 21 miles off Guernsey on February 7, 2019. Mr Ibbotson’s body has never been found.
The inquest continues.