It almost sounds like the set up to a joke: the team that doesn’t tackle is to be investigated after suspicious betting patterns emerged about one of their players being booked.
Arsenal, who rank fourth in the Premier League this season for fewest tackles attempted, could be at the centre of a Football Association investigation after a number of bookmakers reported suspicious bets being placed on one of their players being shown a yellow card.
The FA, while yet to launch an official investigation, is ‘looking into’ the data supplied by the bookies and the circumstances around the flurry of bets placed. It hasn’t been revealed which Arsenal game the potentially fraudulent bets were placed on.
A spokesperson for the governing body would only comment to say:
“The FA is aware of the matter in question and is looking into it.”
It should be noted that, at the time of writing, no charges have been issued and there’s been no confirmation of any wrongdoing at Arsenal.
On the Spot and On the Fix
The popularity of in-play betting has led to an increase in so-called ‘spot fixing’, with the number of suspicious bets being reported also on the rise. In turn, more than a handful of sports stars have been investigated and, in some cases, hit with criminal charges for their part in fixing plots.
The former Lincoln City defender Bradley Wood was banned from football for six years after admitting twice getting booked on purpose during the Imps’ FA Cup run in 2016/17.
Text messages shared during his trial revealed that Wood told friends he would do his best to get booked in games against Burnley and Ipswich Town, and seven of them bet on him to be shown a yellow card. None had previously bet on the cards markets nor staked as much money on a single bet before – causing bookmakers to notify the FA of their suspicions.
The defender was booked in the Ipswich game, which led match commentator Jermaine Jenas to remark at the time:
“That yellow card has been a long time coming for Wood. He’s put in some heavy challenges, some good but more bad.”
In cricket, Mervyn Westfield became the first English sporting star to be jailed for his part in a spot fixing scheme. The former Essex player admitted accepting a cash payment to bowl in a way that would enable Durham to score a desired number of runs in the first over of their contest back in 2009.
A spot-fixing plot involving three Pakistan internationals during a test series against England in 2010 made global headlines. Bowlers Mohammad Amer and Mohammad Asif, agreed to take money from a bookmaker to bowl no balls during specific overs of a game at Lord’s. They were both jailed along with their co-conspirator and captain, Salman Butt.
Since April 2020, Sportradar – a firm that helps to detect suspicious betting patterns – has recorded more than 1,000 instances of potential spot fixing in world sport.