Soccer

6 charged in Australian match-fixing probe

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP)

Six men connected to one Victoria state football club have been charged in relation to Australia's largest match-fixing scandal, including the coach and a goalkeeper.

Football Federation Australia issued a statement Sunday saying 10 people from the Southern Stars, sitting last in the Victorian Premier League, had been arrested after a police investigation into an international gambling syndicate after a tip off from Swiss-based sports and betting data intelligence agency Sportradar.

A 45-year-old Malaysian national was remanded in custody on 10 charges, including five counts of engaging in conduct that corrupts or could corrupt the outcome of a betting event.

Police accused the man of acting as the contact point between the international syndicate and the South Stars players. He is due to appear in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Monday.

A 23-year-old English goalkeeper faces eight charges, including four of facilitating conduct that could corrupt the outcome of a betting event. He was given bail and expected to reappear in court on Friday.

Three other players and a 36-year-old coach were charged with similar offenses.

Four other men arrested on Sunday morning were released pending further inquiries. Under recent changes to Australian laws, match fixing can attract a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail.

Police on Sunday said the investigation had been under way since August and focused on four matches.

Southern Stars President Ercan Cicek told Australian Associated Press that he had no suspicion of alleged match-fixing.

Cicek said five players from England joined the southeast Melbourne-based team at the start of the season at the suggestion of a man who also offered to organize sponsorship.

Cicek said the man, whose full name he was not able to provide to AAP, contacted him twice in six months with offers of players and sponsorship.

The Stars, who Cicek described as a small community club, didn't have to pay the players.

''Our committee members are thinking, `Oh beautiful, five players for free, we're not going to pay anything, it's a big, big bonus'. It looks like a delight for us,'' he said.

Cicek said the Stars' coach also provided his services for free this season, telling the club he just wanted a chance at the Premier League level in Victoria.

The Southern Stars have played 21 matches this season, losing 16 and drawing four. Their only win was a 1-0 victory over top-placed club Northcote City.

Victorian police deputy commissioner Graham Ashton said Australia was a prime location for match-fixing on Asian betting markets due to its favorable time zone.

In February, the crime commission released the findings of the year-long ''Project Aperio,'' saying there was evidence of match-fixing in Australian sport, as well as widespread use of prohibited substances and the infiltration of organized criminal groups in the distribution of performance-enhancing drugs.

FFA chief David Gallop said the sport's national governing body provided police with information relating to suspicious betting activity.

''The arrests today show that the integrity measures put in place by FFA are working to detect illegal betting activity. We're determined to keep football clean,'' he said.

In addition to the criminal proceedings in Victoria state, FFA said anyone charged in the match fixing investigation faces a range of football sanctions including life bans which would apply worldwide.

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