Blackburn striker D.J. Campbell arrested in spot-fixing investigation, his soccer club confirms
Five other players in English lower divisions also arrested, says National Crime Agency
The NCA says Monday that five released on bail while other is still being questioned
UK's Sun on Sunday newspaper published allegations made by undercover investigative team
A former English Premier League footballer is one of six players who have reportedly been arrested in the latest fixing scandal to hit the sport.
Second division team Blackburn Rovers confirmed Monday that striker D.J. Campbell had been taken into custody by police as part of an undercover investigation into claims that the players accepted bribes to ensure certain outcomes during a match – known as spot-fixing – for betting purposes.
“Following reports in today’s national media, Blackburn Rovers can confirm that striker D.J. Campbell has been arrested,” Blackburn, which has won the English title three times, said in a statement.
“The club will be making no further comment on what is now an ongoing legal matter.”
Campbell came to prominence in 2006 when he was signed by EPL side Birmingham, having spent most of his career in non-league football.
His time in the top flight was limited as Birmingham was relegated that season, but he helped the club win promotion again before being sold to second division Leicester and then returning to the EPL with Blackpool. CNN has attempted to contact Campbell but is awaiting a response.
The arrests were first reported by the UK’s Sun on Sunday newspaper, which focused on what appear to be claims by former Nigeria international Sam Sodje, who was recorded on video published by the Sun saying he could arrange for players to receive yellow cards for offenses during a match.
On the video published by the Sun, Sodje appears to admit he purposefully got himself thrown out of a game by hitting the opposing team’s player, while in action for his former club Portsmouth against Oldham in a third division match in February. Authorities have not confirmed Sodje is one of the players arrested. CNN has attempted to reach Sodje for comment, but hasn’t yet reached him.
Sodje, who was released by Portsmouth at the end of last season, twice punched an opposition player in the groin before being ordered off the pitch. The Sun on Sunday reported that Sodje claimed on hidden camera that he received £70,000 ($114,000) for doing so.
He also appears to claim in the Sun’s hidden video footage that he could influence the outcome of EPL matches, and that he was targeting the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“That’ll be the one, the World Cup,” Sodje said in the video, according to the Sun on Sunday. “We’ll do a whole game, get booked once, big money. If you pay a hundred grand it will be huge.”
Portsmouth, now playing in England’s bottom division, said it is “extremely shocked and saddened ” by the allegations.
“Match-fixing of any type goes to the heart of the integrity of the game,” said spokesman Colin Farmery.
“The player in question no longer plays for the club and we have not been contacted by the authorities, but of course we would cooperate fully with any inquiry.”
Sodje’s brother Akpo plays for third division side Tranmere, and his club said it was “aware” of the allegations that the 33-year-old and another of his teammates, former Jamaica international Ian Goodison, are also being investigated by the National Crime Agency (NCA). CNN has been unable to reach either of the Tranmere players for comment.
Oldham Athletic confirmed it is cooperating with the authorities over allegations involving its player Cristian Montano but – like Tranmere – declined to comment further due to the ongoing investigation. Oldham said it has suspended Montano without pay until the investigation is concluded. CNN has reached out to Montano for comment, but hasn’t yet connected with him.
None of the six players have been charged. Five were released on bail until April 2014, the NCA said Monday, and the other is still being questioned. It said the Sun on Sunday had passed on material from its own investigation.
England’s Professional Footballers’ Association said the allegations, if proven, “unfortunately demonstrate the real issue football faces in terms of corruption.”
“It highlights the necessity of the work carried out by the PFA and other stakeholders in the game in educating players of these risks,” the PFA said in a statement Monday.
“We take the issue of integrity very seriously and will continue in our efforts to eradicate this evil from our game.”
Football authorities have been trying to clamp down on match-fixing and illegal gambling, much of which is driven by Asian betting syndicates.
In February, European crime agency Europol announced it had probed 680 suspicious matches across the globe including two European Champions League matches and in September authorities in Singapore made 14 arrests in an attempt to crackdown on football match fixing.
There have been arrests after investigations into competitions across Europe, in China and Australia, with most involving lower-level teams.
There were seven arrests in Britain last month as part of the NCA probe into a “suspected international illegal betting syndicate” which is targeting lower league matches.
This came after four British players were arrested and charged for alleged match-fixing in Australia’s Victoria Premier League this year.
The quartet, who spent part of last season with clubs in England’s non-league Conference South – effectively the country’s sixth division – have been suspended by football’s world governing body FIFA.
Two pleaded guilty and were fined last week, while the other two will return to court on December 20.
The NCA confirmed it is working with the English Football Association and the Gambling Commission as it continues its investigations.
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