Anti-drink drive campaigners have criticised Birmingham City Football Club after it vowed to stand by Jermaine Pennant who was jailed yesterday for three months for driving offences.
Pennant, on loan to Blues from Arsenal, was imprisoned after admitting drink-driving, driving while disqualified and using a vehicle without insurance.
Blues confirmed they would be discussing his situation with Arsenal, but managing director Karren Brady has ruled out ending the player's loan spell.
She said the former England Under 21 star would be given "all the help and support he needs" when he returns to St Andrew's from custody.
Multi-millionaire Pennant was arrested in January after being spotted in a car park in Aylesbury, Bucks, driving a Mercedes with a lamppost dragging beneath it. He pleaded guilty last month to the offences.
After sentencing at Aylesbury Magistrates' Court yesterday, Pennant's team said he would appeal against sentence, but chairman of magistrates John Jakobi rejected an application for bail.
Pennant (22), of Barnet, north London, is believed to earn #12,000 a week. It is not known if Blues or Arsenal will be paying his salary during his imprisonment.
He has been previously backed by Birmingham City manager Steve Bruce and the club's co-owner David Gold, who both said the winger should not go to prison.
However, Carole Whittingham, national secretary of the Campaign Against Drink-Driving, said the club should distance itself from Pennant and publicly state its concern about his behaviour.
"I think Birmingham City should have come out and said very strongly in full that what he did was wrong and that they did not support him," she said. "They have sent the wrong message out to youngsters who will emulate footballers. What sort of a role model is this lad?"
Last month, Nottinghamborn Pennant joined Birmingham City on loan after finding limited first-team opportunities at Arsenal.
Blues vowed to aid his rehabilitation and help him get his career back on track.
Brady said: "We hope that under our guidance he will be able to make a positive contribution to football and society as a whole."
Arsenal, meanwhile, are understood to have no intention of terminating the player's contract. He is on loan until the end of the season, at which point his contract at Highbury will have expired anyway.
Pennant, who received a 16-month driving ban last year, was also banned from driving for a further three years yesterday.
The court heard yesterday a breath test found he was almost two-and-a-half times the legal alcohol limit, with 85 micrograms per 100ml of breath. The legal maximum is 35 micrograms per 100ml.
Pennant had been banned from driving for 16 months in February last year after being seen travelling in the wrong lane in Paddington. That period was later cut after he completed a special course.
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