LONDON: England’s FA has been described as “amateurish” in its reaction to suspicious betting in non-league football. Players formerly with one of the clubs involved were arrested in the recent Australian matchfix scandal.
The three clubs concerned are Billericay Town, Chelmsford and AFC Hornchurch. Last season bookmakers stopped taking bets on several matches involving the clubs in the Football Conference South (the sixth tier of the professional game).
Three former Hornchurch players – Joe Woolley, Reiss Noel and Nick McKoy – and one other ex-non-league player were arrested and questioned in Australia last month in connection with the Southern Stars matchfix scandal in the Victoria Premier League.
That scandal was linked to the known fixer Wilson Raj Perumal who had links with Singapore-based mastermind Dan Tan.
The BBC is reporting that, when the FA was notified last season of suspicions concerning the Conference games it promised to act. However the clubs, from Essex east of London, have claimed none has been approached.
Hornchurch chairman Colin McBride thought the FA had been “amateurish”.
He said: “It’s surprising the FA didn’t contact us, you’d have thought we’d have got a courtesy call. We feel in limbo. We can’t draw a line under it and we want to move on. That’s the disappointing thing, I think we deserve an answer.”
McBride hoped his former players, who he described as “good lads, good footballers”, were acquitted.
He said: “I truly hope they’re innocent. I’m deeply shocked and deeply upset. I truly hope they’re found not guilty.”
Steve Kent, the chairman of Billericay Town, wants an FA investigation.
He said: “I am calling for the authorities in this country to investigate the possibility of match-fixing at our level of football.
“How can they investigate alleged match-fixing involving my club when not a single person from the police, the FA, or the league made any kind of approach to us whatsoever? It’s amazing.”
“In the light of recent events in Australia, it’s time for a proper investigation.
“I’m not saying match-fixing is rife or commonplace, but from the information I have been gathering it certainly warrants an investigation.
“When I saw the names involved I was shocked. The names I was reading I was so familiar with. Last season, they were all playing at our level. We played against them. That’s what shocked me the most.”
The BBC has reported that hundreds of thousands of pounds were placed on Billericay’s away match at Welling last November, the vast majority of it on Asian betting exchanges. The game itself attracted an attendance of only 408 people.
Kent said: “It was a phenomenal amount of money. There was more money bet on our game than on the Barcelona game [that week]. That’s where the story came from. The FA and the league picked up on that but they did nothing about it.”
An FA spokesman said: “The FA takes the matter of integrity extremely seriously. The FA does not confirm any details of investigations or enquiries made, or indeed whether they are ongoing.”