LONDON: Members of an alleged betting syndicate have been arrested on suspicion of fixing football matches in England.
According to a report in The Daily Telegraph officers from the National Crime Agency have detained six men over the past two days, including at least three footballers and Delroy Facey, a player-turned-agent who has played in the Premier League.
The Football Association, in an acknowledgement of the latest turn of events, said it had been aware of the inquiries and arrests and had been working closely with the authorities but could not comment further “due to ongoing investigations.”
Speculation suggested that the matches targeted had not been in the four senior professional divisions. However the action undertaken so far underline a recent warning from one investigator that English football was “sleep walking” into trouble.
Concern over the vulnerability of lower league players in England was raised in September after Australian police claimed that notorious Wilson Raj Perumal was behind a matchfix scandal involving British players in Australia.
A number of footballers from the UK were among 10 people arrested by Victoria police.
Players questioned included David Obaze, an English central defender of Nigerian family background who moved to Melbourne after playing non-league football in the UK as had local Southern Stars team-mates Nick McKoy, Reiss Noel and Joe Woolley.
Midfielder Noel and goalkeeper Woolley had both played for Hornchurch – a Football Conference South club some of whose matches had raised concern about unusual betting patterns last season. Other clubs whose matches raised alerts were Billericay Town and Chelmsford.
There was no comment as to whether those incident were connected to the latest arrests.
The threat of matchfixing to football in any and every country was underlined recently in London by academic investigator Declan Hill.
At a seminar on the subject of matchixing Hill warned: “Many people are sleep walking here in the UK. I don’t think we have a massive problem but there are certain signs. One is the culture of gambling among the players . . . that’s a gateway to criminality and fixing.
“Look at the recent Australian matchfixing: they didn’t bring players from Malaysia but from England. What is that saying about the lower leagues? Is there something there now? Absolutely.”