Police in New South Wales, Australia, are investigating allegations of match-fixing in the National Rugby League (NRL), Australian newspaper The Daily Telegraph reports.
The investigation reportedly concerns two games in 2015 involving Manly Sea Eagles – one against South Sydney Rabbitohs and the other against Parramatta Eels. All three clubs are based in Sydney.
‘The Organised Crime Squad is in the early stage of examining information relating to alleged match-fixing in the NRL,’ said New South Wales police. ‘No further comment is appropriate at this stage.’
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Eddie Hayson, described by media as a ‘gambler and former brothel owner’ is a ‘person of interest’ in the police investigation. Hayson, who is banned from Sydney’s Star Casino and the Australian betting site TAB, is alleged to have collected AUD$500,000 (€322,000) in cash to bet on the match between the Eagles and Rabbitohs in 2015. He is then thought to have instructed that AUD$120,000 (€77,300) be wagered on the same outcome – the Rabbitohs winning by more than eight points.
Mr Hayson allegedly told a source who ‘declined a request by Mr Hayson to contribute to his scheme’ that six NRL players were involved.
Todd Greenberg, the NRL Chief Executive, told a press conference earlier today that any person found guilty of match-fixing will face a life ban.
“The possibility of the existence of match fixing within our sport cuts to the core of our sport and our values,” said Greenberg. “We will take whatever action is necessary to protect the integrity of our sport.”
The CEO also stressed however that the allegations remained speculative at this point.
The Rugby League Players Association, which represents players in the NRL, said that it was ‘committed to working with authorities, the NRL and clubs to protect the best interests of the game and players’ but that it was important to ‘respect the presumption of innocence principle and avoid prejudgement and speculation’.
Manly Sea Eagles is yet to comment on the allegations.
Last week New South Wales police said that it expected to issue further wanrings to NRL players as concerns grow over possible links to organised crime. The previous week Parramatta Eels player Corey Norman was charged with drugs offences after capsules of MDMA (ecstasy) were seized from him. The charges came after police warned Norman, team-mate Junior Paulo and James Segeyaro of Penrith Panthers for consorting with criminals. The Eels have since released Paulo, and Segeyaro has reportedly been dropped from the Panthers’ first team.
Last year Manly Sea Eagles player David Williams was suspended for half the season ‘for placing multiple bets on matches, including several in which he was involved.’ Four other NRL players were each suspended for two matches for betting on league matches in which they did not feature.