IT IS a judgement that has cast a shadow over the reputation of one of Yorkshire’s sporting superstars for the best part of two decades.
But supporters of Geoffrey Boycott hope new evidence suggesting he was wrongfully convicted of domestic abuse will finally end the former England cricketer’s wait to be knighted when the New Year Honours are announced.
Boycott, who turned 75 last week and is currently in Dubai on BBC commentating duty, was found guilty in a French court of hitting his then-partner Margaret Moore in 1998.
But a report in a national newspaper this weekend alleges that Miss Moore admitted to a friend she had slipped on a marble floor and hit her head, causing the injury she later claimed was caused by Boycott.
His solicitor, meanwhile, has reportedly described being contacted by a representative of Miss Moore, who suggested that if Boycott was prepared to pay her off she would drop the allegation.
Asked how much money she would want, it is claimed her lawyer implied that Boycott would need to match offers of £150,000 she had had to sell her story to a newspaper. Boycott is said to have refused, saying he “considered it to be blackmail”.
Boycott, who lives in Boston Spa and was awarded the OBE in 1980, has cross-party support in Parliament for a knighthood, but has persistently been overlooked for further honours, despite his sporting and broadcasting achievements.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is among those who wrote to the Cabinet Office last year urging it to give him the honour.
The decision over whether to recommend Boycott for a knighthood rests with the sports sub-committee of the honours system, which is chaired by Lord Coe. They will recommend recipients of honours for the New Year list to the main honours committee, chaired by Sir Jonathan Stephens, on which the chairs of the sub-committees, including Lord Coe, also sit.
Nominees are checked by Government departments to make sure they are suitable for an honour before they are accepted.
Nigel Adams, Conservative MP for Selby and Ainsty, said he hoped the new evidence would “present an opportunity for the case for a further honour to be re-looked at”.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “I don’t think the conviction will be overturned; that will be a matter for Geoffrey in the light of the new evidence, whether he wants to go through that again.
“The reality is, I don’t know. It is ultimately up to to the honours panel to make a decision.
“There is plenty of support for a further honour for Geoffrey Boycott and the new evidence is quite startling and throws a different light on events.
“The recorded conversations between both sets of lawyers may have thrown a different light on the decision but that is a matter for the French justice system.”
Boycott has always denied hitting Miss Moore, saying that bruising on her face was caused by her falling to the floor as he tried to prevent her throwing his clothes out of a hotel window during a heated row.
He told a newspaper: “To be accused of something you haven’t done, especially in a foreign country, is anyone’s worst nightmare. It was a very traumatic time for all my friends, myself and my family.”
He declined to comment further on the case this weekend, while Miss Moore says she stands by her version of events.
David Cameron is an admirer of Geoffrey Boycott, having described him as one of the “greatest living Yorkshiremen” when he sat next to him during a Test match at Headingley in September, when the Prime Minister also asked Boycott to give him a private tour of the ground.
The Yorkshire Post reported recently that the former England opener is to become a patron of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance after helping to raise more than £1m for the charity in the last year.
Boycott, who played 108 times for his country, said he first became aware of the work of the air ambulance after he and his wife, Rachael, watched episodes of the BBC documentary series Helicopter Heroes.