By Debayan Mukherjee
A person watching an I-League game with a media accreditation card has come under the scanner and is considered to be linked with matches in the Goa Professional League which have been identified for ‘suspicious betting patterns indicative of match manipulation’.
London-based Sportsradar – a company that monitors betting odds, movements and patterns worldwide and has FIFA as one of its clients – has cast their suspicion on six matches played between October 16, 2019 and November 19, 2019 in the Goa pro league last season.
Sportsradar identified these suspicious activities through the Fraud Detection System and sent it to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), which in turn let the All India Football Federation (AIFF) know.
In February, AIFF’s integrity officer Javed Siraj, a former CBI officer, sought an explanation from the Goa Football Association (GFA) on the six matches played. Officials claim that Siraj is still awaiting a reply from GFA and maintains that the matter is pending.
But as per a letter, accessed by IANS, to Siraj from GFA dated March 9, it was intimated that a person wearing an I-League media accreditation card issued by AIFF was seen watching a Churchill Brothers versus Gokulam Kerala FC game on March 8 at the Fatorda Stadium with ‘two or more’ mobile phones with him.
“As part of our investigation, we have found out that a person was at the Nehru Stadium at Fatorda, Morgoo on 08.03.2020 during the l-League match No.86 – Churchill Brothers Sports Club and Kerala Football Club in the West Stand, Upper Tier was relaying the proceedings of the match, a sort of commentary type, on the phone. He had with him two more telephones. This was at around 20:25 hours,” the letter signed by Jovito Lopes, general secretary, GFA, read.
When GFA officials caught him, the suspect who as per his media accreditation card represented ‘Genius Group’ which is apparently linked to Bet365, was on a phone call.
In the letter, GFA further wrote that they informed the same immediately to the AIFF media director Nilanjan Datta and “it was verified that the card was issued by the AIFF”.
The AIFF media director then instructed GFA to bring the matter to the notice of the match commissioner of the venue. The suspect, the letter said, was not sitting in the ‘Press Tribune’, but in the spectators stand and “as such could not be evicted”.
“We have found out that the person attends the Goa professional league matches, also, and those who have seen him felt that he is involved in providing the commentary,” the letter further read, throwing light on the suspect’s area of operation.
“From our investigation, we have been told that he uses the telephone most of the time and since Genius group is allegedly linked to Bet 365, the possibilities of online betting are pretty high, play by play.
“However we have no proof or evidence in the matter. We have been informed that Bet 365 is illegal in India and, as such, the Genius group’s accreditation by AIFF needs to be seriously looked into.
“Our investigations continue and we shall keep you posted with further developments,” read the letter.
“Generally the state association issues I-League accreditation for their respective venues. But this one for some dubious media house named Genius Group came directly from AIFF,” a source told IANS.
“Generally these betting organisations hire data companies who in turn hire match reporters who give you key facts which can impact betting patterns,” the source added.
In Siraj’s report where he sought an explanation from the GFA earlier, he wrote: “The report prima facie indicates that the matches, detailed in the report, were fixed.”
The report said there was ‘clear and overwhelming betting evidence that the course or result of the match was unduly influenced with a view to gaining betting profits’.