3 Australian League Soccer Players Arrested Over Alleged Betting Corruption

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In a blow to Australian soccer, three A-League players were arrested Friday as part of a monthslong investigation into alleged betting corruption.

In December 2023, the New South Wales state police and the UK Gambling Commission began a probe into alleged yellow card manipulation by players linked to a southwestern Sydney club. 

The investigation revealed a shocking scheme: a senior player allegedly took instructions from a South American contact to organize yellow cards to occur during specific games in exchange for illicit profits. 

In a press conference, NSW Police Asst. Commissioner Michael Fitzgerald said one player paid “junior” players up to 10,000 Australian dollars (over $6,500) in exchange for receiving yellow cards, adding that “Police will allege that that senior figure within that criminal group was acting under the instruction and direction of an organized crime figure currently offshore in South America.”

In police raids Friday, three players from one team were arrested, aged 33, 32, and 27. The identities of the players have not been released, though the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has already named the team as MacArthur FC and said its 33-year-old team captain Ulises Dávila, a Mexican national, was arrested in South Coogee.

“We took action today because we were concerned that the principles involved in this matter would have left our shores in the coming days and weeks,” Fitzgerald added in the press conference. There is no evidence, he said, that players from other clubs were involved, but a fourth player who was out of state during the arrests on Friday is sought for questioning.

Macarthur FC said in a statement to TIME that the club was “shocked” by the arrests, though it did not confirm the identities of the players. “Integrity of our game is a foundation pillar and we will work closely with all relevant agencies on this matter,” the club said.

Police say the 33-year-old man faces two counts of engaging in conduct that corrupts a betting outcome of an event, and two counts of facilitating conduct that corrupts a betting outcome of an event. The two other players are set to be charged with engaging in conduct that corrupts a betting outcome of an event.

The arrested players are expected to face court, presumably for a bail hearing, on Friday afternoon, Football Australia said in a statement to TIME.

Authorities believe the alleged scheme targeted matches on Nov. 24, 2023, and Dec. 9, 2023. Further alleged attempts to influence yellow cards in games played on April 20 and May 4, 2024, proved unsuccessful, the police added.

Investigation into the alleged scheme—and into other potential corruption involving match fixing and sports betting—is ongoing, with the New South Wales police’s Organized Crime Squad collaborating with various agencies including the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Sports Integrity Australia, Football Australia, and the Australian Professional Leagues. 

“It’s extremely unfortunate that the actions of only several people have severely damaged the integrity of a game that so many people around the world love and so many people are passionate about,” Detective Superintendent Peter Faux said at the press conference about the arrests on Friday. “These people are fortunate to be in a position where they’re, in some cases, paid a lot of money to do something they love, and unfortunately, their [alleged] actions—they’ve taken advantage of that position and brought down the integrity of not only themselves and the club that they play for but unfortunately the sport.”

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