While English football was last night bristling from their latest betting scandal, thoughts were turning closer to home to avoid a repeat of last season’s incident that saw Longford Town player Colm James struck with an 18-month ban after the FAI found him guilty of breaching FAI Rules associated with match integrity.
Moreover, Airtricity League Director Fran Gavin revealed afterwards that their investigation into the incident led them to conclude that a sophisticated overseas betting ring had engaged in an attempt to fix matches.
This suspicion was given further credence yesterday when the alleged match-fixer in the English case stated in an undercover string: “I do Australia, Scotland. Ireland. Europe. World Cup. World Cup qualifier.”
Although the FAI confirmed last night there had been contact with the English FA on the incident, there’s no reason to believe any Irish games were targeted on this occasion.
“There is no doubt match-fixing is the biggest threat to the game globally and we are working closely with An Garda Siochána, Uefa and the betting industry,” said an FAI spokesperson.
“We have a memorandum of understanding in place with the betting companies as well as an early warning system to detect abnormal betting trends. However, it is also important that anybody who is aware of any attempt to fix matches reports it.”
Before the case of James, two other League of Ireland players were banned for less serious betting offences.
Wexford native Gary Dempsey received a five-match suspension in 2008 while Derry City’s Gareth McGlynn was hit with a two-month ban two years later.
Gavin also visited the players of both Shelbourne and Monaghan United in their Tolka Park dressing-rooms before their Premier League game in May 2012, warning them of irregular betting patterns. No investigation was held into the suspicions.