FIVE TOP players, two referees, four investors and one club executive have been accused of being involved in the match-fixing of recent Thai League games. The arrests mark the first serious crackdown on cheating in Thai football.
The 12 men were taken into police custody but have since been released on bail.
The arrest warrants cite the alleged bribing of professional athletes to fix results and of match officials to violate the rules.
After an investigation lasting more than six months, authorities under the supervision of National police chief Chakthip Chaijinda, with the help of Sportradar, a Swiss sports data company, determined that the 12 were linked to match-fixing in four Thai League games on July 26 and September 10, 17 and 23.
Suspicions of irregular online betting arose when an unusual number of goals were scored at the late stages of those games.
Four Thai Navy FC players - Suttipong Laoporn, Suwittaya Numsinlark, Seksan Chaothonglang and Narong Wongthongkham - plus Weera Kerdputcha from Nakhon Ratchasima Mazda FC were each allegedly paid as much as Bt200,000 to manipulate results.
“I had heard about match-fixing in Thai football for a long time, but there had never been a serious attempt to tackle it until now,” said Football Association of Thailand (FAT) president Somyot Poompanmoung during a press conference at police headquarters yesterday.
“Match-fixing is like a bad disease or a cancer in our body that needs to be cured immediately.
“The officials confessed that match-fixing in Thai League really exists and it has since the old FAT administrations. It’s time that we eradicate this wrongdoing or otherwise we will see the fall of Thai football. I thank the Royal Thai Police for their work.”
Committed under coercion
Chakthip said the match-fixing had been done through a network comprising players, a football club executive and match officials, as well as local and international investors.
Among those arrested were Chedsak Boonchu, director of Sisaket FC, and Fifa referee Poomrin Khamruen.
The investors and investor representatives were: Wanlop Samarn, Kittipoom Papoo-nga, Setthapasit Komonwattana and Pakpoom Pannikoon.
Officials and referees could be sentenced up to 10 years in prison and fines of Bt300,000 to Bt600,000, while players and investors could face five years in prison and Bt600,000 fines, Chakthip said.
Somyot also said there would be a further crackdown if more names were linked to the manipulation of results.
The Thai football chief said he had been informed by referees that senior authorities in past FAT administrations had influenced results for their own benefit, adding that referees had been coerced into manipulating results for the sake of their jobs.
“They would be banned from matches if they didn’t comply and sent for overseas training if they followed the demands,” Somyot said.
He said referees also had to obey instructions to make a living as their salaries might not be paid in full or on time.
He also urged other players and officials with match-fixing information to call him and talk to police directly to provide evidence that could lead to more arrests.
He conceded that previous news about match-fixing involving Thai-Cambodian matches during the SEA Games was true, but added that Thais had not been involved.
Chakthip said he hoped corruption would be eliminated in next season’s Thai League as a result of this crackdown.
Meanwhile Nakhon Ratchasima chairman Tewan Liptapanlop said his club had nothing to with match fixing and had suspected irregularities in recent results.
“I really wondered why my team lost 3-5 goals in the last minute during the last five games,” said Tewan who insisted he would fire Weera and seek legal action against the goalkeeper.
For Navy head coach Somchai Chauyboonchum, he never suspected any wrongdoings from the four players and assumed that poor fitness and a lack of concentration and training caused defeats to his side.
Published : November 21, 2017
By : LERPONG AMSA-NGIAM THE NATION