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Soccer-Conference League tight-lipped on match-fixing claims

Reuters

LONDON, Nov 28 (Reuters) - The Football Conference, the fifth tier of English soccer comprising professional and semi-professional clubs, refused to comment on Thursday over allegations some of its matches had been fixed by an overseas betting syndicate.

Police arrested six men on suspicion of match-fixing in England, the National Criminal Agency (NCA) said on Wednesday, with British media reporting the focus was on the lower leagues.

However in a statement on their website (www.footballconference.co.uk), the organisation said: "The Football Conference has become aware of a story published today concerning arrests being made over alleged match fixing.

"The Football Conference takes all matters relating to the integrity of the game very seriously but it cannot make any comment on today's story as it would be inappropriate to do so."

The arrests, which were first reported late on Wednesday, are said to include three current footballers and one former player who appeared in the Premier League and is now an agent but still playing in a league at a level lower than the Conference.

In a statement on Wednesday, the NCA said it was "working closely with the Gambling Commission and the Football Association.

"The focus of the operation is a suspected international illegal betting syndicate."

Britain's Daily Telegraph, which has been investigating match-fixing, reported the matches are all in the lower leagues.

The Telegraph did not specify the relevant divisions but one team is alleged to have been involved in three fixed games.

The Football Association said in a statement that it had "been made aware of a number of arrests in relation to a National Crime Agency investigation.

"We have worked closely with the authorities in relation to these allegations."

Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey said in a statement: "We understand from media reports that there is an ongoing Police investigation into alleged match fixing in domestic football. To date, we have had no contact from the Police regarding this matter.

"The threat of corruption is something that The Football League and the other football authorities treat with the utmost seriousness."

"The integrity of our matches and our competitions is the bedrock of the domestic game."

Earlier this year, an inquiry by European police forces, the European anti-crime agency Europol, and national prosecutors uncovered a global betting scam run from Singapore.

About 680 suspicious matches, including qualifying games for the World Cup and European Championships and the Champions League for top European club sides, were identified in the investigation.

The last major match-fixing scandal in England occurred in the mid-1960s when 10 players were found guilty and jailed for conspiring to fix matches. (Editing by Alison Wildey)

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