Arrests over English football ‘match-fixing’

Six men have been arrested by officers from the National Crime Agency investigating alleged match fixing in English football.

At least three footballers are reported to be among those held across the country, but the BBC understands that none is linked to professional clubs.

The NCA said the focus of the operation was a suspected international illegal betting syndicate.

It is thought the suspects are being held by police in the Midlands.

The NCA was launched this year to fight organised and serious crime.

It said it was working closely with the Gambling Commission and the Football Association.

A spokesman said: “This is an active investigation and we are unable to provide further detail at this time.”

Newspaper probe

The FA said it has been made aware of the arrests.

In a statement, it said: “We have worked closely with the authorities in relation to these allegations. The FA will make no further comment at this time due to ongoing investigations.”

“The Gambling Commission said it had provided advice, intelligence and expertise in supporting the investigation and continues to liaise with the NCA and FA.”

The Crown Prosecution Service said it had liaised with the NCA during its investigation.

The arrests come after an undercover investigation by the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

It carries claims that a betting syndicate fixer from Singapore discussed the possibility of influencing the scores and outcomes of lower-league English games for £50,000 at a meeting in Manchester.

Police in Singapore told the BBC they have not been involved in the arrests.

According to the paper, the fixer claimed potential gamblers would make hundreds of thousands of pounds by using the inside information through bets placed on Asian-based websites.

He reportedly offered to target two football matches, saying he would tell players how many goals he needed to be scored.

He can be heard in a video claiming that he would pay a player £5,000 to take a yellow card at the start of a match as a signal that the result was likely to be fixed.

‘Globalised sports corruption’

The Football League said it had not been contacted by police about the investigation.

Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey said: “The threat of corruption is something that the Football League and the other football authorities treat with the utmost seriousness.

“The integrity of our matches and our competitions is the bedrock of the domestic game.”

Journalist Declan Hill, author of the Insiders’ Guide to Match Fixing, has been investigating the subject for years and says the way the crime is carried out has changed recently.

“We’ve now got a globalised sports corruption, where people are fixing the gambling markets in Asia and they’re coming to European countries and then making very dubious deals with dodgy players and referees, and they literally have established networks of corruption right around the world,” he said.

Soren Kragh Pedersen, from the European Union policy agency Europol, said the news was not unexpected.

“This is not a surprise because when we look around Europe it is practically everywhere and in some of the major leagues but, of course, also the minor divisions. We see it everywhere so it would be a surprise if you did not find it in England also,” he said.

In February, Europol announced that it had found evidence of match fixing of some top international football games after conducting the biggest-ever investigation into match fixing in Europe.