SYDNEY (AFP) – Ten people were arrested in a multi-million dollar match-fixing probe involving an Australian state soccer competition, police said Sunday, with reports that a number were British footballers.
Victoria state police said they made the arrests after executing search warrants across the city of Melbourne, following a racket that had been under investigation since August on a tip-off from the Football Federation of Australia.
"Ten people were arrested in relation to a number of matches in which the results are alleged to have been manipulated," the FFA said in a statement.
The group included nine current players and a coach from the second-tier Victorian Premier League club Southern Stars, with reports that some were from Britain and were playing in Australia during their off-season.
FFA chief David Gallop said the governing body tipped off the police after their international betting watchdog Sportradar detected suspicious activity.
Media reports put estimated winnings in Australia and overseas from the fixed matches at more than Aus$2 million ($1.85 million), with organised crime syndicates winning big on Asian betting markets. The players allegedly received kickbacks for conceding goals or throwing matches.
"We're determined to keep football clean. Alongside other sports bodies in Australia and globally, we must eradicate corrupt behaviour from sport," Gallop said.
"The integrity of football is paramount."
Police said those arrested were expected to face match fixing charges, which could attract a 10-year maximum jail sentence.
They will also be punished for breaching FFA's national code of conduct, which could result in lifetime football bans, applicable worldwide.
Victorian police deputy commissioner Graham Ashton said that Australia was susceptible to international match fixing.
"Further match-fixing risks are imminent in Australia, partly because of localised overseas betting on Australian sporting events due to our favourable time zone," Ashton told reporters.
"It is vital that we continue gathering intelligence to take preventative action to make it difficult for organised crime to infiltrate our sporting codes.
"We will continue to work with the relevant sporting codes and the Australian Crime Commission to create an environment that is hostile to those seeking to engage in illegal activities involving our sporting codes."