Linford Christie, the man whose ice cold stare and lengthening stride took him all the way to the top of the sprinting world, is calling someone out on social media. Britain’s greatest sprinter is rolling around on the floor, laughing his rather compact arse off. It’s enough to pique my interest and as I start to forage further, asking more and more questions, a curious picture starts to emerge. The subject of Linford’s hilarity is a story of incredible audacity; a tale in which Christie (amongst other sports stars) is unfortunately and unwillingly involved. It’s one that reveals a desperately unregulated industry and a man prepared to do almost anything to take people’s money. Welcome to the unbelievable world of Scott Francis.
Francis is a difficult man to pin down, and it doesn’t take much research to find out why. On the face of it, he is man obsessed with weight loss and personal fitness, who also seems prone to exaggeration. Dig a little deeper and you discover gymfuls of distrust and anger aimed at a man who has spent a large amount of time making things up.
The personal trainer world is competitive. People are increasingly turning to experts to help them get fitter. The fitness business sector is worth billions and every quarter there is a new fad explaining how you will lower your body fat % quicker. At the top end, there is high intensity weight training and bodybuilding. As you would expect, it’s a world crammed full of bare chested selfies, narcissism and hormone-fuelled jealousy. Claims and counterclaims of personal achievements are two a penny, and shameless self publicity is a necessary evil. Scott Francis however, takes things to a whole new level. Back in 2013, Scott Francis aka Dutch Scott made some pretty sizeable claims on a popular muscle and fitness web forum. It’s worth a read; it’s the sort of thing that would make Jay Cartwright from ‘The Inbetweeners’ blush:
This is such an incredible missive, it needs breaking down. Scott has been asked with whom he has worked. He begins with a list of three rugby players and refers to them all as internationals. David Flatman tells me he’s never met Scott Francis and Matt Banahan points out that since turning pro at 18, he has never been allowed to train outside his club’s strength and conditioning professionals (he has no idea who Francis is either). Ian Davey was never a full international, he was let go by Bath after a handful of first team appearances. He had a couple of successful seasons at Bedford Blues and subsequently flew off to play in Spain. But this is just a start.
Next on Francis’s list of clients is Boudewijn Zenden (I had to look up how to spell this so I’m not going to draw attention to the fact he gets it wrong). This is my favourite. Lovely and exotic sounding, yet played in England for Middlesbrough. Both he and fellow Dutch international Michael Richard (who?) were personally trained by Scott. The inaccuracy of this second name (does he mean Reitziger?) casts shadow on the claim that either has done so much as a push up in front of Francis. But that’s not going to stop our man. A trio of Bristol Rovers players and Bristol City’s Lee Trundle (since of Swansea) were all helped by Francis’ expertise. Scott was at one time based in gyms around Bristol so maybe this has returned to the realms of possibility but remember what Banahan said: contracted players don’t tend to stray too far from their club’s S&C. It’s not long before things get doubtful again.
Francis suddenly becomes integral to the British Olympic team. Yep, this is the motherload; he’s using capitals. Our silver tongued friend reels off the aforementioned Christie but also Marlon Devenish (sic), Ato Bolden (sic), Darren Campbell and Jamie Baulsch (sic). These were some of the world’s finest fast men. All ‘personally overseen’ by Francis. He gave them tuition. Christie’s reaction to him via social media is pretty conclusive. I think we have someone stretching the truth here, not people’s hamstrings.
Linford Christie responds via Twitter
And international athletics is just one of many sports to which our man has turned his hand. MMA, British Jujitsu, Cage fighters, British Boxing Heavyweight contenders have also supped from Francis’ cup of plenty. How does he fit them all in? Time for something a little left field… The cast of Skins? You know, that programme on E4 starring um, er, it doesn’t matter. Apparently all of them came to him for nutritional advice. Right, he’s starting to sound like that loud bloke down your local, on to his fifth pint.
Scott is now getting forgetful. He starts leaving out famous people, because there’s like, so many (I would have left out the Skins guys out btw). We get painfully self-aggrandising yet grammatically awkward phrases like ‘I was the ****ing man with whom had multi facets’ and ‘I pi55 excellence’, and lastly ‘I’m elite, I’m classed as elite, I’m elitely qualified’. Having got himself all horny with such talk, Scott finishes a la Cartwright. As if his sports star shoulder-rubbing hasn’t sealed the deal, perhaps who he has ‘nailed’ will do the trick. No less than 413 HB10s (Hot bitch 10/10s) including some notable prize winners (he is careful to include the elite plus size ladies). Luckily, our man refrains from posting a naked picture of himself (I think JW was after something slightly less homoerotic when he asked for your credentials, Scott) and signs off safe in the knowledge that all questions have been answered.
We all like to big ourselves up. It is natural; when you’re with your mates, you extend the truth. Stories of personal endeavour, triumph, encounters with the opposite sex, sure, we’ve all lied to impress. I’m sure there are thousands of examples of people talking themselves up online, perhaps with lines better than those of Francis. But when your lies start to con money out of people, things start to get a little dark. It doesn’t take long to find some of Francis’ dissatisfied customers. People who, after reading and hearing about his clientele, gave Scott their hard earned cash in the hope of receiving some top notch advice and training.
Back in May 2015, Kezia Ficicchia didn’t place as well as she should have done at the World Body Fitness Federation Pro Competition. She had seen Francis’ boastful claims on Instagram, and even though she recognised his methods were a bit extreme, she reached out to him.
“I followed him on Instagram and saw his client list. I left my old coach and got in contact with Scott and asked him to prep me. He asked for money upfront which, regretfully, I gave him: £800 for a 16 week course. He said he’d send me an email with my prep on it, things I needed to buy and eat. He’d been quite communicative previously, but once he had my money he dropped off the radar. The start date was approaching (16 weeks out from the competition) and I emailed him asking where my prep was. Nothing. I found it all a bit weird as my previous coach had been very good at keeping in contact. It got to the Saturday and I still had nothing from him so I tried a stronger approach. Still nothing. Sunday came and went and the deadline for me to start had passed. I still hadn’t heard anything from him. A few days later (31st) I then got an email from him. He forwarded me an email he’d supposedly sent on the 24th July with my prep on it.”
“The whole thing was so badly written, phrases and sentences not really making sense, and I had the distinct feeling he’d copied and pasted someone else’s plan and just changed the name. He was telling me to lift weights and do exercises I was never going to be able to do because of my size. At one point the prep just said ‘abs’, no other instruction, just the word abs. I thought I was getting a personal and detailed service, yet I felt like an afterthought. It seemed like a complete cop out. So I wanted my money back.”
Kezia chased Francis and again met with silence. He evaded her for weeks and eventually informed her she wouldn’t get a refund because he’d sent her the plan; he’d done what she had asked. She took it to the small claims court and they found in her favour. They concluded that Francis legally owed her the money back. She is still chasing him; the address Francis gave is no longer where he is based.
Arfon James knows that. He went there in person chasing the £450 Scott owed him after a very similar encounter. “The people that are now there said he disappeared six months ago and they’ve had a lot of people asking. I was one of many who’d visited apparently.”
James had asked for a ten week plan and again, felt the Francis love right up to the point where he parted with his money. “I just didn’t hear anything from him for ten days. He eventually came back and sent me through a plan of sorts. He’d completely ignored the lengthy questionnaire he’d asked me to fill out. He wanted me training on days I already did an hour and a half of Jujitsu and down on less than 2000 calories. I tried it but I couldn’t; I ended up at the doctors. His plan made me ill. I asked for my money back and even though he took my bank account details, I never heard from him again. I tried his social media channels but he just blocked me or deleted my messages. I know it’s not mega money but it was more the principle. I felt he’d taken me for a ride. I went to the business address to try and confront him but he’s long gone. I’ll have to pay more to take it though the courts. I don’t think I will. Maybe this is what he is counting on.”
Jamie Wagland did get some money back. He also signed up for a ten week course with Francis. “It was only £100 out of the £450 I’d given him but it was something. I was lucky I suppose because someone I was training (Wagland himself is a personal trainer) was a lawyer and he helped me; told me what letters to write. Scott avoided any contact for so long that it was the only avenue left to me. I could see him continuing to brag on social media and I felt he’d completely pulled one over on me. I attacked him via those channels because I wanted to try and warn people about him, but now I’ve moved on; you have to. He conned me out of money but I couldn’t waste any more time. The plan he sent was an embarrassment. In the questionnaire I specifically laid out that Thursday morning was impossible for me because of other commitments. What did my plan say: a huge workload on Thursday am. Also, the exercises were so vague, anyone with just a small amount of knowledge would see they weren’t right.”
Francis claims involvement in a disabled athlete’s training, but the reality is very different
Jamie Sutton was someone given excuses by Francis. Having chased him for his paid for plan over two weeks, all Sutton got in return was ‘Sorry, I’ve been on holiday, I’ll send it through soon.’ There are others who claim Francis has had family members die or been involved in car crashes to avoid dealing with people. Again, Sutton wanted his money back and again a lot of chasing ensued. “Eventually, after numerous occasions where he said he’d sent the money without sending anything, I got £100 back. I’m obviously after all of it but at least I have something.”
“Unfortunately,” continues Sutton, “There’s no real regulation in the fitness industry to prevent stuff like this happening. And the amounts aren’t quite big enough to take proper court action and get the bailiffs round.” And that’s just it, it’s a cute game. Francis doesn’t seem to upset the top layer of the sport. Far from it, there are top level pros condoning his work. He must keep them all very happy, using his time and knowledge to good effect. But this secondary and tertiary level of person, people happy to spend hundreds perhaps thousands of pounds on his advice, he takes their money and runs.
Francis is a slippery fish. He claimed, via social media, to have a first class degree in Biochemistry. Teesside University confirmed that Francis, in 2014, was only awarded a Certificate of Higher Education in Public Relations. Goodness knows what possesses him to claim such study, especially as it is so easily checked. Maybe he feels it would give him standing in the dangerous world of Performance Enhancing Drugs, which so clutter the world of extreme fitness and bodybuilding. There are rumours flying around the web that Francis allegedly got involved with a body builder and put him in hospital because of what he told him to inject. The man named online as having had that happen to him refused to confirm anything and wanted nothing to do with my article. He messaged “He’s a waste of space and isn’t worth the time… There’s nothing positive that can come from being involved with Scott Francis.”
Even more worrying is the presence of an alleged ‘charity’ GiveBack. This was supposedly set up by Francis to help people fighting cancer but it seems to have provided him with only more avenues to lead people along. There has never been a charity set up by Francis in this name. At one point he tried to suggest he was helping the disabled, as well as helping those with fighting devastating illnesses. But there seems little to suggest anything other than the fact that he was just riding a wave. At one point on twitter, a qualified personal trainer questions the idea of working with those suffering; Francis’ response is bizarre.
The final words of this piece go to Francis. I made contact with him explaining my article. I told him the claims people were making and that I wanted to give him chance to speak. I contacted him via an email address I knew would work, there are many that don’t. I gave him a week, after all, I wasn’t going to chase like so many before me. I asked him to respond in some way, laying out the questions we had. He didn’t reply. Not in any shape or form. And yet, I know the email address is active because at the same time, he gave it to my cousin who posed as a punter, wanting some ‘help’.
Here is a man more than happy to talk rubbish. Happy to take credit for the work of others. Happy to claim serious qualification when he has no such thing. Happy to take honest people’s money. Happy to avoid all consequences, evade questions and take no responsibility as someone providing a professional service. Happy to exist in an industry which will allow him to get away with this sort of confidence trick. Scott Francis is happy to live a life which is a lie. Which, all in all, makes you feel really quite sad.
Sam Roberts © 2016. (Text only). All Rights Reserved