Tuesday 24 October 2017

'I can't be sure everyone in China knows where Athlone is' - Martin O'Neill on betting controversy

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill
Paul Hyland

Paul Hyland

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill is surprised at the alleged match-fixing controversy surrounding League of Ireland side Athlone Town.

"There's a difference between normal betting and match fixing. Most people would have a bet but match fixing is a totally different issue," he said.

"I can't remember at club level ever been involved in anything like that.

"I came in in the 70s. There was something with Sheffield Wednesday in the 60s and players went to jail.

"From a distance it, seems as if it's a lot of Asian betting.

"I wouldn't be sure that everyone in China would know where Athlone is."

Details of the letter sent by UEFA to the FAI which has triggered an investigation by the association and the Gardaí into Athlone Town have emerged.

Six figures sums, believed to be in the region of €400,000, were wagered on the game between Athlone and Longford Town on the Asian betting markets last weekend.

Longford, who are not being investigated for wrongdoing, scored just before half-time and full-time in their 3-1 defeat, and the report highlights the fact that the odds of goals being scored did not rise closer to the end of the halves, as they should have.

The letter from UEFA to the FAI said: "There is clear and overwhelming betting evidence that the course or result of this match was unduly influenced with a view to gaining corrupt betting profits.

"The betting evidence ultimately indicates that bettors held prior knowledge of Athlone Town suffering a minimum two-goal defeat, in a match which contained at least two first-half goals and at least four in total."

Anti match-fixing organisation Federbet, an organisation that has made presentations to the European Parliament, took to social media on Sunday to describe the odds on a fourth goal being scored as 'crazy'.

Their director general Francesco Barenca told Independent.ie: "There were a couple of factors that suggest there was match-fixing in this game.

"The strange betting patterns were the most revealing aspect. The prices after 85 minutes were totally unrealistic and not related to the score of 2-1.

"For those kind of odds to prevail, it requires a significant amount of money to be wagered.

“Activity on this game was suspicious.

“I’m talking about numbers, which are clear. We monitored the odds and it was crazy.

"At Federbet, we never accuse anyone and only comment on the numbers we see.

"Before this game, we would have never talked about the Irish league. We would have considered it clean."

The FAI will conduct interviews with Athlone players, management and officials from Monday as part of their investigation into the controversy.

The club issued a statement earlier this week saying it "abhors match fixing and would never knowingly get involved in such unacceptable activity".

They also said that they would cooperate fully with the enquiries.

Martin O'Neill was speaking at the Sports Direct sponsored Summer Soccer Schools programme launch.

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