Tracking Alleged Spot-Fixing Scandal After 7 New Footballers Are Arrested

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Tracking Alleged Spot-Fixing Scandal After 7 New Footballers Are Arrested
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Updates from Wednesday, April 9

Sky Sports reports that the FA has banned clubs from betting on any matches in the top eight tiers of English football:

Updates from Friday, April 4

Six Preston players and one Barnsley player were named among the newly arrested individuals in the spot-fixing scandal that has rocked British football.

Chris Wheeler and Neil Ashton of the Daily Mail provide the list of names in their article, as well as a statement from Preston North End Football Club:

Six players from Preston and one from Barnsley were interviewed by police as part of an investigation into alleged bribery and money laundering.

[...]

Six other men originally held in December and bailed until April 8 — former Portsmouth player Sam Sodje, his brothers Steve and Akpo, who plays for Tranmere, Blackburn striker DJ Campbell, former Oldham winger Cristian Montano and Tranmere defender Ian Goodison — were also re-arrested yesterday after the National Crime Agency acted on ‘new evidence’.

Preston insisted in a statement that all their players would be available for selection for their game against Bristol City on Saturday.

The statement said: ‘There are no suggestions that any offences that might have occurred involved match fixing.’

 Ben Rumsby of the Daily Telegraph has more from the NCA on the arrests:

Original Text

Match-fixing in European soccer has become an all-too-common blight on the game, and English football is not exempt, as on Thursday the National Crime Agency announced seven more footballers have been arrested.

From the NCA's website:

In December 2013 the NCA arrested six men in connection with an investigation into individuals suspected of Conspiracy to commit acts of Bribery and Money Laundering relating to conduct during football matches. They were interviewed and bailed to return on 8th April pending further inquiries.

Officers from the NCA have been actively pursuing a number of lines of inquiry in this ongoing investigation.

The NCA have today re-arrested the six original suspects based upon new evidence, along with a further seven footballers aged between 18 and 30 suspected of potential involvement in these offences. The seven men arrested in addition to the original six are from Football League clubs based in the North West of England. All 13 individuals are being interviewed at police stations across the country.

The investigation began following receipt of material from the Sun on Sunday. It remains ongoing and we cannot provide further detail at this stage.

In December, The Sun (subscription required) reported that former Portsmouth player Sam Sodje told an undercover reporter that he could arrange for players to get thousands of pounds in payment for getting yellow cards. He also said that he planned to fix Barclays Premier League games and potentially even World Cup contests.

Further, he claimed he had purposefully gotten a red card in a game against Oldham in exchange for £70,000.

Oldham's Cristian Montano was also cited in that report in the red- and yellow-card scheme, as were Stephen and Akpo Sodje.

In all, Blackburn striker DJ Campbell, Montano, Tranmere defender Ian Goodison and the Sodjes were arrested in the initial NCA probe. They received bail but have since been rearrested, along with the seven new suspects.

It remains unknown whom these latest suspects are.

The FA made the following statement via its website:

The FA has been made aware of developments in relation to an ongoing NCA (National Crime Agency) investigation, including a number of further arrests. 

We are liaising with the authorities in relation to these allegations. 

The FA will make no further comment at this time.

While it is a promising sign that both the FA and NCA are taking this matter as seriously as they are, the potential implications of these match-fixing scandals or pay-for-card schemes are troubling, especially on the same day that former Zenit Saint Petersburg defender Erik Hagen has come forward and admitted to paying a UEFA Cup referee, according to Reuters (via The Guardian):

The 38-year old Norwegian footballer said that it was customary to pay for match-fixing and he and his team-mates each paid a referee $3,000 (£1,800) to secure the outcome of a Uefa Cup match between 2005 and 2008. In return he said each of them received a $12,000 bonus (£7,200).

These are not the sort of stories that the sport ever wants to see, but they are especially troubling with a World Cup just months away. Few events garner more worldwide attention than the World Cup, and that means few events probably put athletes or referees under more pressure to fix a match. 

The hope is that Hagen's revelations or the recent actions taken by the NCA will discourage participants from fixing matches. But it's clear, at least in European club soccer, that the practice remains altogether too common.

 

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