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|Five players charged by FA with betting offences
| Owen Gibson
Four Football League players could face long suspensions after they
were yesterday accused of backing their own team, Accrington Stanley, to lose
in a match against Bury at the end of last season.
Following a 10-month investigation, the Football
Association have charged five players in all with breaking its rules on betting
which prohibit players from staking money on any match or competition in which
they are participating or on which they have "direct or indirect influence".
It is believed to be the first time that the FA has acted against
players accused of betting on their own team to lose. In other recent cases
players have been warned after backing their own team to win or gambling on
other matches. Four of those charged Jay Harris, David Mannix, Robert
Williams and Peter Cavanagh were registered with Accrington Stanley at
the time of the game while Andrew Mangan was registered with Bury. Harris and
Cavanagh played in the game.
five are alleged to have placed bets on Bury to win the match, which they did
with a 2-0 victory. Mannix is alleged to have placed stakes of approximately
£4,000; Mangan £3,500; Harris £2,000; Williams £1,000;
and Cavanagh a £5 accumulator.
Harris, now registered with
Chester City, has also been charged in relation to betting on a game involving
his new club and another two League Two fixtures. Cavanagh has also been
charged with further breaches in relation to betting on another Accrington
Stanley match in which he played and on a number of other League Two matches.
There were believed to be other suspect bets under investigation that the FA
was unable to pin down to an individual.
Leighton McGivern, also
registered with Accrington Stanley at the time of the game, was charged last
month with failure to provide the FA with information requested during the
course of the investigation. He has denied the charge.
including William Hill and Coral, stopped taking bets on the match after noting
suspicious betting patterns involving larger-than- normal bets in
specific parts of the country, including Liverpool. Reports at the time said
£300,000 had been wagered compared to the typical average of
£20,000 for a game of its stature. In order to place them above
suspicion, the FA changed the officials and also sent an independent assessor
to monitor the match.
"Accrington Stanley are aware that two of our
players have been charged by the Football Association in connection with
betting on football matches," the club said yesterday. "They have until later
this month to respond to the charges, and we will wait until the Football
Association reach a final verdict before any action is taken by the club."
When the allegations first came to light last year, the Accrington
Stanley chief executive, Rob Heys, said: "If anything is found that implicates
individuals then they will be out. It is as simple as that."
charges, to which the players have until 23 April to respond, will reignite
speculation about how open football is to manipulation. There have been
allegations of match fixing and suspect betting throughout the game's history
but it is difficult to prove. Online gambling and the wide range of events,
from corners to yellow cards, that can be bet on during a match are thought to
have increased the risks and sparked a debate about the integrity of sport and
its relationship with gambling.
In October, there were allegations that
a suspect betting operation in Asia had sought to influence the Championship
match between Derby County and Norwich City. Last month there were concerns
after bookies paid out £1m on the non-league fixture between Weymouth and
Rushden & Diamonds. The Professional Players Federation yesterday called
for more education for young players on gambling issues. "It is disappointing
that there has been so little progress on educating players about sports
betting integrity issues," said their general secretary Simon Taylor.
He added: "We have today written to the government asking them to help
overcome the inertia and encourage the sports and betting industries to
work together to fund an effective education campaign for all players."
The Gambling Commission is believed to have been asked to look into
around 50 cases of suspect betting patterns in sport since September 2007,
including allegations against snooker and tennis players.
And it has
created a new kind of gambling careerist. "Now my skill is being able to
predict the fluctuation of Lancashire Police yesterday said that there was no
criminal investigation into the matter at this stage. Under the 2005 Gambling
Act, there is a specific offence relating to cheating at gambling.