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Allegations of an English soccer player deliberately drawing yellow cards in a betting scheme resulted in a red card lasting years.
Bradley Wood received last week a six-year ban from the Football Association for violating the FA’s betting and integrity rules. The FA’s Independent Regulatory Commission found Wood guilty of 25 offenses, including two charges of match-fixing. He admitted to 23 of them.
Sports betting ties run deep in English soccer. The Wood investigation fits right into today’s discussion on integrity in a potentially expanded United States sports wagering market. It’s a topic the English Premier League waded into in last week in backing the NBA and Major League Baseball’s stances.
Wood played in 2017 for Lincoln City, a fourth-division team located about 150 miles north of London. In two matches, Wood acquired unusual cautions from the referee late in the contest. When paired with information related to strange in-game wagering on the match, FA officials became suspicious.
In its final decision, the FA lays out the entire case against Wood:
The data supplied by betting organisations has revealed what is said to be unusual bets being placed on Mr. Wood being cautioned in both matches. Two of those placing the bets are said to have close personal involvement with Mr. Wood. It is said that the bets were atypical in the context of the caution betting market, and in relation to the betting history of those placing the bets.
The potential winnings (some were not paid) totaled approximately £10,000 (more than $14,000.) The gravamen of the case against Mr Wood is that he planned to be cautioned, and told personal acquaintances of that plan so that they and others to whom the information was passed placed bets.
The contact between Wood and people known to have bet on Wood’s cautions helped add to the case:
Two of the individuals who had placed bets, Matthew Hardwicke and Scott Worrad, are close to Mr Wood. Others are close to Mr Worrad, who it is suggested relayed information to them. The 7 telephone/messaging records show that Mr Wood was in unusually extensive contact with both Mr Hardwicke and Mr Worrad before the two matches.
On 17 January 2017 Mr Wood sent 42 text messages to Mr Worrad before the match. This equated to almost 20% of his contact with him over the whole billing period. On the 18 February 2017 Mr Wood texted his brother in law, Sidney Dick a total of 52 times between 6.05 am and 10.26 am: the game kicked off at 12.30 pm. Mr Dick is friends with William Sinclair who placed his bet on Mr Wood at 12.00 noon.
The FA is English football’s governing body. How it monitors potential match-fixing could provide insight for both professional leagues and state regulators in the United States.
The FA touts a dedicated integrity team featuring former criminal investigators. This group “works closely with the Gambling Commission’s Sports Betting Integrity Unit, UK betting operators and law enforcement agencies, such as the National Crime Agency, and both UEFA and FIFA to share data and intelligence.”
The body also says it partners with a company which tracks global betting markets on English football for unusual movement in lines.
Any prominent fixing caught with help from a league could become fodder for the NBA and MLB’s case on integrity. The leagues continue their drive for integrity fees from legalized sports betting in part based on the idea they need it to protect the integrity of their games.
Exactly how they would contribute to that cause remains unclear now. After all, those leagues already monitor legal sports wagering markets and corresponding player behavior. But Wood’s situation illustrates a danger legislators and regulators will comprehend.