English FA investigates game-fixing allegations

[ENGLAND] The English Football Association reluctantly admitted Thursday that it is investigating the October 4 Championship (second-tier) game between Norwich City and Derby County after it received information that the game had been subject to unusual online betting patterns in Asia.

The FA had received the information at the weekend, but has yet to contact either of the two clubs involved. Only when two Members of Parliament, both Norwich City fans, brought the matter up in parliament did the FA admit that it was looking into the affair. It is the first time since the 1990s that the FA has admitted to investigating a specific game.

"It's a serious allegation and it's going to be taken seriously," stated FA Chairman Lord Triesman . FA inquiries, however, are traditionally slow beasts reluctant to show their faces to the public. An investigation into another suspicious result -- in England's fourth tier between Accrington Stanley and Bury -- is still apparently "ongoing" after five months, according to a report in The Guardian.

Visitors Derby won the game in question 2-1. It led the game 1-0 at halftime, and it was just before and during the interval that the unusual betting patterns took place, according to a U.K. betting firm, Spreadex, which monitors its Asian competitors. In the second half, Norwich equalized through a penalty kick after Derby's goalkeeper Roy Carroll fouled Leroy Lita and was red-carded. Derby regained its lead five minutes from time when Carroll's opposite number, David Marshall, failed to clear a ball outside his area, allowing Nathan Ellington to score the winner.

The bets, however, were placed on Norwich City to score, according to a report in The Times. So even if there turns out to be substance to the suspicions, any player involved in the conspiracy didn't manage to pull off the required result. Meanwhile, Derby's manager Paul Jewell was dismissive of the whole affair. "If it wasn't so serious it would be laughable," he said. "I don't know where the story has come from but it's certainly nothing for us to hide or Norwich to hide."

But then it only takes hard evidence to make a laughable allegation serious. The English, still hanging on to the national stereotype of jolly honorable behavior and fair play all around, seem to think their leagues are somehow immune to the kind of manipulations that have in recent years hit soccer in countries like Italy, Poland, Greece and Germany.

However, bribery in the English league goes back over 40 years and beyond. In 1997, the BBC broadcast "The Fix," the dramatization of a betting scandal that hit English soccer in the 1960s. It centered around Sheffield Wednesday and England player Tony Kay, who was banned for life after he and two teammates bet on their team to lose at the instigation of long term game-fixer Jimmy Gauld. The three players and Gauld were among eight players jailed for the scandal after Gauld sold the whole story to a Sunday tabloid paper.

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