Nine people have been arrested over alleged match-fixing in multiple soccer fixtures in Hong Kong, the city’s anti-corruption watchdog said late on Tuesday.
“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, without specifying names of the players or the club.
“Inquiries 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,” the statement said.
The Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA), which regulates the former British colony’s professional league, confirmed that an investigation was 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,” HKFA chief executive Mark Sutcliffe said.
The southern Chinese city has a low-key soccer scene, with each top division game often attracting less than a thousand spectators.
Sutcliffe admitted that the league could be more vulnerable to rigging as players are poorly paid amid low revenue streams for clubs.
“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.
The arrests were made on Sunday and involved six players, an executive officer of a soocer club, a representative of the sponsor of the club and a “corrupt associate,” the watchdog said.
The South China Morning Post previously reported that several Happy Valley players were being investigated after a match between the first division club and Sun Hei Sports Club, in which Happy Valley got beaten 5-0.
Last month, another first division club, Tuen Mun, was embroiled in a controversy after one of its defenders headed into his own net to allow the other side, Yokohama, to win 2-1 in stoppage-time.
Match-fixing has proved a chronic and growing blight on international soccer and can involve cross-border syndicates. In Britain, two Singaporean men were arrested for suspected match-fixing over lower-league English soccer in November last year.
In Singapore, 14 people were held in raids in September last year for match-fixing after a crackdown on one of the gangs linked to hundreds of rigged soccer matches worldwide.