AN INVESTIGATION into the collapse of Bangor City FC has found that some players and staff said they were desperate for food, despite the club claiming up to £375,000 in furlough money.

A documentary – BBC Wales Investigates: The Hidden World of Football - to be aired this evening delves into the story of a wannabe pop star, Domenico Serafino, who bought Bangor City in 2019. Both Bangor and an Italian club owned by Mr Serafino have since collapsed.

Domenico Serafino said he did everything he could to get Bangor back in the Cymru Premier. He has also said he passed on all furlough payments to the players.

The programme also reveals that a business associate of Mr Serafino had previous links to the mafia.

When Domenico Serafino took over Bangor – one of the founders of the Cymru Premier - in 2019, he promised to return it to the top flight of Welsh domestic football.

READ MORE: Bangor-born striker receives call-up to Wales senior squad

Mathew Jones, 23, was a fan of his boyhood club and jumped at the chance of working as its media officer.

But the reality was very different.

North Wales Chronicle:

Mathew Jones. Picture: BBC

Mr Jones said: “As the weeks and months went by, we'd speak among ourselves and think this is a balloon that's getting blown up, and blown up, and eventually it's going to pop.”

In late 2021, a Football Association of Wales disciplinary panel ordered Bangor City to pay £53,000 of unpaid wages to players and staff.

A number of players and staff have now told BBC Wales Investigates that at times they went without food.

Mr Jones claims he was one of those who missed out on wages.

He said: “It got awful. We were without food, we'd come together, because we lived on the same street. And we're trying to cook big meals together to try and save money.

“A lot of the players were suffering. It was horrible, horrible position.”

Former Bangor City goalkeeper Mariano Barufaldi, 29, also spoke to the programme.

“Some of us were paid as normal,” he said. “Others weren’t paid, others were paid months late. It was in some sense very unfair and very unequal.”

The investigation also uncovered how the club claimed up to £375,000 in furlough money – but that some players and staff claimed this did not make its way into their hands.

Mr Jones said: “At the beginning, you'd see four or five players who wouldn't get paid from the furlough money each month.

“And then eventually it grew and grew until it was the whole squad. Where that furlough money went, I don't know, but it wasn't to our pockets.”

The BBC Wales investigation has also found that Mr Serafino, 55, who owned a second football club on the east coast of Italy called AS Sambenedettese Calcio, used an accountant who once had links to the Mafia.

The programme has also found that the Football Association of Wales does not have a procedure in place to check the details of prospective buyers of clubs, while the FA does have a test in place for leagues at equivalent levels in England.

Terry Steans worked as an investigator for FIFA, with responsibility for rooting out corruption and fixing in football around the world.

He says the rules in Wales should be tightened in light of the events of Bangor City FC.

North Wales Chronicle:

Terry Steans. Picture: BBC

He says: “Who was looking into him and his finances? Who verified he had the funds to buy that club and to maintain it. Somebody has to be accountable for that, don’t they?

“It’s a shame for the players, it’s a shame for the town, the community. They’ve lost out and lots of kids have lost their dreams of probably playing for Bangor City FC.”

The Welsh FA said its Code of Ethics safeguarded the integrity and reputation of football in Wales.

In relation to calls for an owners and directors test in Wales, it said it would examine any lessons from the new independent regulator in football, which is for England only.

Mr Serafino claimed all furlough money was passed on to players. When asked about his links to the Italian accountant previously convicted in a mafia trial, Mr Serafino said he had always used his “artistic activities” to fight corruption and the mafia.

The majority of supporters have now switched allegiances to a newly formed fan-led club, Bangor 1876 FC.

Supporter Frida Fernley, 19, adds: “It's a shame that is what Bangor City has come to, but that history and passion has just carried on [and] moved over to Bangor 1876, so it's still there - and we're still a part of it.”

North Wales Chronicle:

Frida Fernley with her father Dylan. Picture: BBC

  • The Hidden World of Football is on at 8pm on BBC One Wales this evening, Tuesday, May 24, and will be available afterwards on BBC iPlayer.