Football bosses have vowed to continue to work to eradicate the “evil” of fixing of football matches, as six players were arrested as part of a “spot-fixing” investigation.
Blackburn Rovers striker DJ Campbell and five other players were detained in an investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA) after information was passed to it by a Sunday newspaper.
Five players, including Campbell, have been bailed until April, while a sixth was still being questioned yesterday. It is believed the other players are Oldham Athletic’s Christian Montano; Portsmouth player Sam Sodje, 34, and his brother Akpo, 33, a former Hibs player who now plays for Tranmere Rovers. Steven Sodje – another brother – and teammate Ian Goodison are also rumoured to have been detained.
In the wake of the arrests, the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) said: “These allegations, if proven, unfortunately demonstrate the real issue football faces in terms of corruption and highlights the necessity of the work carried out by the PFA and other stakeholders in the game in educating players of these risks.
“We take the issue of integrity very seriously and will continue in our efforts to eradicate this evil from our game.
“In terms of these specific reports, due to the ongoing investigation by the National Crime Agency, we are unable to comment further.”
The Football Association said it was working closely with the NCA and other authorities, while Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey said it treated any allegations of criminal activity with “the utmost seriousness”.
According to the Sun on Sunday, an undercover investigator met Sam Sodje, 34, who allegedly said he could arrange for footballers in the Championship to get themselves a yellow card in return for tens of thousands of pounds.
He claimed he could rig Premier League games and said he was preparing to fix matches at next year’s World Cup in Brazil, the newspaper reported.
It also alleged that Oldham player Montano failed to get a yellow card in return for money in a match against Wolverhampton Wanderers on 22 October and offered to take part in another rigging incident.
Reports said Campbell was arrested on Sunday – a day after he came on as a substitute against QPR in his team’s Championship game. The newspaper claimed detectives were likely to review a yellow card he received for a tackle in the first half of Blackburn’s league game against Ipswich Town last Tuesday.
Campbell, born in London, began his league career at Brentford and went on to play in the Premier League for Birmingham, Blackpool and QPR. He signed for Blackburn Rovers in July after previously joining the club on loan from QPR last February.
In a statement, Blackburn confirmed he had been arrested.
An NCA spokesman said: “We can confirm that the Sun on Sunday has passed material from its own investigation to the National Crime Agency. An active NCA investigation is now under way and we are working closely with the Football Association and the Gambling Commission.
“Five people were arrested on Sunday morning, and bailed that evening until April 2014. A sixth person was arrested on Sunday evening and is being questioned by NCA officers. No further detail is available at this stage.”
A spokesman for Akpo Sodje’s League One club said: “Tranmere Rovers are aware of Sunday newspaper allegations regarding Akpo Sodje. As this is an ongoing investigation, the club will make no further comment at this time.”
There is no suggestion that the investigation involves Sodje’s time as a Hibernian player.
Oldham confirmed winger Cristian Montano was one of the six players arrested, and said he had subsequently been suspended without pay while the investigation is ongoing.
Manager Lee Johnson called for unity at the club, telling Oldham’s website: “Anybody who saw that report will have been devastated and sick to their stomachs.However, we have to let the authorities do their job and duties, and we cannot prejudice that.”
The NCA is already carrying out a separate investigation into an alleged international illegal betting syndicate. Michael Boateng and Hakeem Adelakun, both 22, were charged last week with conspiracy to defraud contrary to common law.
The pair, who played for Conference South club Whitehawk FC in Brighton, were dismissed by their club and will appear in court tomorrow.
Two other men, Chann Sankaran, 33, from Hastings, East Sussex, and Krishna Sanjey Ganeshan, 43, from Singapore, were charged last month with plotting to defraud bookmakers and will also appear in court this week.