Five professional footballers and a suspected bookmaker have been arrested over alleged match fixing in Hong Kong’s football league, the city’s anti-corruption watchdog said Thursday.
Local media reported the five footballers played for Hong Kong Pegasus, a strong team in contention for the title, which unexpectedly lost a match last week against a Chinese Super League team made up mostly of youth players.
“The five arrested players might have conspired to accept bribes from other persons, including the suspected bookmaker, as rewards for their participation in rigging four matches,” the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) said in a statement late Thursday.
The watchdog said the alleged bribes amounted to over HK$90,000 and that the investigation was started after it received a complaint during the 2015-2016 season.
The Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA), which regulates the former British colony’s professional league, has previously admitted the league could be vulnerable to rigging as players are poorly paid.
“It is disappointing to note that further allegations of misconduct have come to light,” HKFA chief executive officer Mark Sutcliffe said in a statement, adding that they have recently introduced measures to minimise the threat of corruption.
In 2014, nine people were arrested for alleged match-fixing in multiple football fixtures, with one Croatian player convicted and jailed for 12 months, the South China Morning Post reported.
Match-fixing is proving a chronic and growing blight on international football and can involve cross-border syndicates.