Past and present players among 10 arrested in League of Ireland match-fixing inquiry

Gardaí searched a number of properties in early-morning operation on Wednesday

Current and former League of Ireland footballers, including some who have played professionally, are among a group of men suspected of conspiring to fix matches as part of an alleged betting scam.

Ten suspects, including two current and five former players, were arrested in Dublin and the southwest on Wednesday in connection with the matter. Searches were also carried out, including at the homes of some of those arrested, and a number of phones were seized for analysis.

As well as the current and former players questioned, other men who know some of the players were also detained on suspicion of helping to fix specific playing scenarios and results.

The 10 men are aged from their 20s to 60s and were taken to Garda stations in the Southern and Dublin Metropolitan Garda regions. They were detained under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud contrary to common law.

A Garda spokesman said on Wednesday night that five of those arrested had been released without charge and that files would be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions. He said the five others remained in custody.

Detectives suspect relatively large numbers of people, mostly supporters of one club, bet that their team would lose specific fixtures. This created suspicious betting patterns, including the rate of winning bets spiking for some games.

There was also concern at some of the play during the games that were scrutinised, including the manner and timing of fouls and the times at which goals were scored, all of which can be bet on, and how these resulted in successes for punters.

The arrests were part of Operation Brookweed and involved members of the Bribery and Corruption Unit, which is part of the Garda Economic Crime Bureau. Gardaí have already spent around three years working on the case. It has involved the seizure of mobile phones and laptops from persons of interest, with their communication records analysed and betting patterns, for large numbers of people, scrutinised.

The evidence gathered to date was put to the arrested men during their Garda interviews. All of the arrested men were expected to be released without charge on Wednesday night or Thursday morning as the investigation continues.

"Match-fixing and corruption is a threat to all sports at all levels and undermines public confidence in the fairness of sport," said Det Supt Catharina Gunne of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB). "It can allow organised crime to infiltrate sport in order to use it to make illicit gains or launder proceeds of crime."

In a brief statement on Wednesday, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) said it noted the latest developments in the investigation.

“The FAI, in conjunction with UEFA, remains committed to a zero tolerance policy on match fixing. As this is now a legal matter we will be making no further comment,” it added.

The criminal investigation began in 2019 when UEFA passed information to the FAI about alleged irregular bettering practices on a number of League of Ireland games in the 2018-2019 period.

It emerged in 2019 that two investigations were underway into unusual betting patterns on two football matches. Mobile phones held by players were seized during a search by gardaí.

Further searches were carried out in January 2020 as part of an inquiry into alleged match fixing. On that occasion, phones, electronic devices, a stun gun and €20,000 in cash were seized, though no arrests were made.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times