11 footballers arrested in Hong Kong match-fixing probe

HONG KONG – Hong Kong authorities have arrested 11 footballers from the same team over allegations of match-fixing in a domestic league, the city’s anti-graft body said on Tuesday.

After a year-long investigation, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on Monday detained 23 people in total, including a coach, over the alleged fixing of results in the First Division, Hong Kong football’s second tier.

The alleged offences include bribery manipulating match results and illegal gambling, ICAC principal investigator Kate Cheuk said at a press conference on Tuesday.

“This operation is the largest in recent years carried out by the ICAC against match-fixing,” she added.

ICAC said the match-fixing group was suspected of paying each player up to about HK$10,000 (S$1,710) for each game, depending on their impact.

“It’s not about how well they played but how well they faked (their performance) or how much they could help manipulate the results,” ICAC’s Cheuk said.

The suspected footballers would either play passively so their team would lose to a weaker rival, or they sought to achieve a certain score that was unpopular and at high odds, she added.

The group and some of the players then bet on these results in an illegally organised scheme for profits.

The arrested players and the coach belonged to the same club, which ICAC did not name. It would only say that they belong to a First Division team that had played 26 matches and won eight in the 2022-23 season.

Local media, however, cited sources as saying they were from Happy Valley, one of Hong Kong’s oldest football clubs.

There are currently three First Division teams with eight wins – Happy Valley are one of them.

ICAC said it has yet to come up with the total amount of money involved as the probe is still ongoing.

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