Controversial McKays claims Cardiff ‘abandoned’ tragic Sala

Matt Stead

Former football agent Willie McKay believes he and his son have been made scapegoats for the plane crash that killed Emiliano Sala.

The 28-year-old Argentinian striker died, along with pilot David Ibbotson, when the Piper Malibu aircraft they were travelling in came down in the English Channel on January 21, two days after Cardiff had made him their record signing.

McKay helped broker the deal and arranged the flight while his son Mark was acting as the agent for selling club Nantes in the £15million move.

McKay believes Cardiff had abandoned the player and left him to arrange his own travel plans, insisting that the Premier League club could have done more.

Cardiff City and a peculiar kind of grief…

“He was abandoned in a hotel more or less to do his travel arrangements himself, nobody at Cardiff seemed to be doing anything,” McKay told BBC Sport.

“It was a bit embarrassing from Cardiff’s situation because they had a player that was worth 17million euros and then left him to sort a hotel for himself and go on the computer and look for a flight himself. I think Cardiff let themselves down badly.”

Cardiff have strongly disputed that claim in a previous statement which said that their offer of organising a seat on a commercial flight for Sala was declined.

“People will look for a scapegoat – me initially – and in the end, they will probably say it is pilot error,” said McKay.

This week, as the search for Ibbotson’s body continued, accident investigators said that the pilot did not have a licence for commercial flight and could only fly passengers in the EU on a cost-sharing basis.

“It was not a cost-sharing arrangement because Emi (Emiliano) was not paying anything,” said McKay, “When you phone a taxi you don’t ask him when he comes ‘do you have your driving licence?’

“It’s not something you think about. We just wanted to get the boy back home and we were happy with what we did. I don’t think anyone is responsible, it’s just a tragic accident.”

McKay, who recently attended Sala’s funeral in Argentina, is no longer a registered agent but when asked why he was involved in the Sala deal, he replied: “I was helping my son.”

Mark McKay does not believe he could have done anything any differently, saying: “I can’t see how I could have.

“I’m not going to sit here and say I’m a victim, because I’m not. But it has been tough and tough for people around me, who have taken the brunt of it.”

Nantes have lodged a complaint with FIFA over Cardiff’s refusal to pay the first instalment of the £15million transfer fee for Sala, with the Welsh club saying they remained “committed to ensuring fairness and accountability” over the deal, but insisted “the facts surrounding this tragedy” had first to be established.

Willie McKay added: “I don’t care if Cardiff pay or if Nantes pay us, I don’t care, because what we’ve gone through is total hell.”