3 Australian soccer league players arrested for alleged yellow card-fixing scheme

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Three A-League players in Australian soccer were arrested on Friday following a months-long investigation into alleged betting corruption. The New South Wales (NSW) state police and the UK Gambling Commission initiated the probe in December 2023, focusing on alleged yellow card manipulation by players associated with a southwestern Sydney club.

As reported by TIME, the investigation uncovered a scheme wherein a senior player coordinated with a South American contact to plan yellow cards in specific games for illegal financial gain. NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Michael Fitzgerald revealed that one player paid “junior” players up to 10,000 Australian dollars (over $6,500) to receive yellow cards. “Police will allege that the senior figure within that criminal group was acting under the instruction and direction of an organized crime figure currently offshore in South America.”,” Fitzgerald stated.

On Friday, police conducted raids resulting in the arrests of three players, aged 33, 32, and 27. Although the identities of the players have not been officially disclosed, local media identified the team as Macarthur FC. The arrested players include the team captain, 33-year-old Ulises Dávila from Mexico, 27-year-old Clayton Lewis from New Zealand, and 32-year-old Kearyn Baccus from South Africa.

Authorities believe the scheme targeted matches on November 24, 2023, and December 9, 2023. Attempts to manipulate yellow cards in games on April 20 and May 4, 2024, were reportedly unsuccessful. Fitzgerald noted, “We took action today because we were concerned that the principles involved in this matter would have left our shores in the coming days and weeks.” A fourth player, who was out of state during the arrests, is currently sought for questioning.

Macarthur FC expressed their shock over the arrests, asserting their commitment to the integrity of the game. “Integrity of our game is a foundation pillar and we will work closely with all relevant agencies on this matter,” the club stated. Football Australia, the sport’s governing body in the country, confirmed its full cooperation with the authorities.

The 33-year-old player faces two counts of engaging in conduct that corrupts a betting outcome of an event and two counts of facilitating such conduct. The other two players are also charged with engaging in conduct that corrupts a betting outcome of an event. All three were formally charged and granted bail on Friday afternoon, with court appearances scheduled for later dates.

The investigation into this alleged scheme, as well as other potential corruption related to match-fixing and sports betting, is ongoing. The NSW police’s Organized Crime Squad is working in collaboration with the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Sports Integrity Australia, Football Australia, and the Australian Professional Leagues.

Detective Superintendent Peter Faux condemned the actions of the arrested players, stating, “It’s extremely unfortunate that the actions of only several people have severely damaged the integrity of a game that so many people around the world love and so many people are passionate about.” He added, “These people are fortunate to be in a position where they’re, in some cases, paid a lot of money to do something they love, and unfortunately, their [alleged] actions—they’ve taken advantage of that position and brought down the integrity of not only themselves and the club that they play for but unfortunately the sport.”