British criminal investigators have arrested six people, including three players, for suspected football match-fixing, raising major concerns that corruption in the game could be widespread.
UK’s National Crime Agency said on Thursday “the focus of the operation is a suspected international illegal betting syndicate. The NCA is working closely with the Gambling Commission and the Football Association”.
The arrests follow a sting operation by The Daily Telegraph, which showed a Singapore-based bookie discussing the possibility of influencing scores and outcomes of lower-league English games for 50,000 pounds at a meeting in Manchester.
The Football Conference, the fifth tier of English football comprising professional and semi-professional clubs, refused to comment over allegations some of its matches had been fixed by the syndicate. Those arrested are said to include three current footballers and one former Premier League player who is now an agent and features in a league lower than the Conference.
In the sting – similar to the 2011 cricket spot-fixing scandal involving Pakistan players – the fixer purportedly offered to target two matches, saying he would tell players how many goals he wanted to be scored. He can be heard in a video claiming that he would pay a player 5,000 pounds to get a yellow card at the start of a match as a signal that the result was likely to be fixed.
Earlier this year, an inquiry by the European anti-crime agency Europol and national prosecutors uncovered a global betting scam run from Singapore. About 680 suspicious matches, including qualifying games for the World Cup and European Championships and the Champions League for top European clubs, were identified in the investigation.