A top level enquiry coudl be launched within the UK Football Association over the alleged use of a Cessna Reims F172M Skyhawk to spy on team training manoeuvres of Premier League leaders Manchester United (Man U).
UK tabloid newspaper The Mirror is reporting that the 172 (G-CBME), operated by Skytrax Aviation, took off from Egginton airfield in the UK's Derbyshire county, last Wednesday. The aircraft then flew over the team's training ground in the Carrington suburb of Manchester, 100km (55nm) away, twice at 11:45 and again at 11:50. The aircraft has been modified with a jet fuel-burning engine, the article says.
Skytrax Aviation specialises in aerial photography, selling prints of individual postal code areas. Supplementary type certificates list onboard modifications in G-CBME as installation of "photographic equipment".
However, the newspaper alleges the aircraft was chartered specifically to fly over Carrington at a period the team performed highly-secret training session as it battles to stay at the top of England's foremost football league.
The newspaper's reporters followed a car from the airfield to a hand-over point on the M4 highway where it claims tapes and films were handed over to a mystery client in the London area.
Manchester air traffic control reportedly told the Mirror that several requests for clearance over Carrington had been filed in recent weeks. Man U faces stiff competition from teams including London's Chelsea and Arsenal as well as from nearby Liverpool.
The Mirror followed up the article by chartering its own light aircraft today, from which it claims it could see clearly see individual players being put through their paces and performing set pieces, at an altitude of 1,500ft (450m). Man U's training ground has been nicknamed "Fortress Carrington" due to its high level of security.
Skytrax Aviation was not contactable for comment.