Nine arrested over match fixing

Nine people have been arrested over alleged match-fixing in Hong Kong, according to the city’s anti-corruption commission.

“Nine persons, including professional football players, were arrested for alleged bribery in rigging the results of football matches involving a local football club,” the Independent Commission Against Corruption said in a statement.

“Enquiries revealed that the sponsor’s representative and the executive officer might have offered advantages to the players of the football club as rewards for their participation in rigging football match results,” it said.

The Hong Kong Football Association has confirmed that an investigation is underway but refused to comment on the arrests.

“It’s not a Hong Kong issue, it’s a worldwide issue. We have no room for complacency,” association chief Mark Sutcliffe told AFP.

Football in the Chinese city is hardly big business, with each top division game often attracting less than a thousand fans.

Sutcliffe admitted that the league could be more vulnerable to manipulation as the players are poorly paid and the clubs make little money.

“Our league may be more vulnerable than other places because our players and coaches are paid relatively poor wages, compared to leagues in some other countries,” he said.

Hong Kong-based newspaper South China Morning Post has reported several Happy Valley players were being investigated after a match between the First Division club and Sun Hei Sports Club, in which Happy Valley lost 5-0.

Match-fixing has become a persistent and growing blight on international football in the last few years, with Europol revealing last year that more than 680 matches in 30 countries were under investigation.

Given the scale of the problem and the fact that much of it has been attributed to criminal gangs based in Asia, it would come as a surprise if a league such as Hong Kong’s was not affected by match fixing in some way.