Police in the state of Victoria arrested nine foreign players – reportedly all or mostly British – from the Southern Stars Football Club, a team in the second-tier state league. The players, who face 10-year jail sentences, were part of a ring whose winnings allegedly totalled more than £1.2  million.

The arrests took place on Sunday morning in what is believed to be the largest match-fixing scandal in Australian history.

The players, who were competing in Australia during the British off-season, reportedly include Reiss Noel, Joe Woolley, David Obaze and Nicholas McKoy, who had been ­playing for non-League English clubs such as AFC Hornchurch and Eastbourne Borough.

Nicholas Mckoy also played for Apoel in the KOPA League last season.

The head coach, Zaya Younan, who is understood to be Australian, was also arrested.

Police believe the syndicate heads used relatively low-level players and a little-known competition because they believed it would make it easier to avoid detection. Police are still investigating whether the players were recruited to fix matches before heading to Australia.

The bets were reportedly made on the internet and on underground betting markets in Asia, including Singapore and India.

“The players are not unwitting pawns, they’re in full knowledge of what was going on,” a Victorian police deputy commissioner, Graham Ashton, said.

The Southern Stars Football Club, based in Melbourne, are bottom of the state Premier League table and have won only one game this year. The club have been thrashed in several games and have a total of 16 defeats and four draws.

The club said the coach, Younan, last year requested to take charge of the team and promised sponsorship to the cash-strapped club.

“We were in financial strife and he came in and offered to coach and said he could get us sponsors,” said a spokesman, Tony Kiranci. “He was very enthusiastic. Whether it’s been planned from back then, we don’t know… We are all volunteers and don’t know what’s going on.”

Police believe the syndicate has been operating throughout Europe and expect there will be further arrests. The players face jail terms and global lifelong playing bans.

“This is the first case we’ve uncovered of this level of match-fixing in Australia,” Ashton said. “Further match-fixing risks are imminent in Australia, partly because of localised overseas betting on Australian sporting events due to our favourable time zone.”

 Daily Telegraph

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