Player arrested in Norwegian fixing probe

An unnamed player has been arrested as part of an investigation into a football match-fixing scandal that has rocked Norway this week, the country's football association (NFF) said on Wednesday.

"Police have tonight arrested and charged a Follo player in connection with the ongoing police investigation about the possible manipulation of results," the NFF said in a statement on their website, without giving further details as to the person's identity.

"This is obviously a significant and serious development in the case, but nevertheless it is still a player and an employee at one of our member clubs, and I have to remind you that the person is innocent until proven otherwise," Kjetil Siem, general secretary of the NFF was quoted as saying.

Police are probing allegations that two games on June 24 were fixed with Ostsiden IL coming from 3-0 down to win 4-3 against Follo FK while Asker beat Frigg 7-1.

Follo FK told the FA they suspected their game was fixed and began an internal investigation.

The FA then took the unprecedented step of cancelling the game between Ullensaker/Kisa and Ham Kam. The day after that match was scheduled, the NFF made an official complaint to police in Oslo and a criminal investigation began.

"We have talked to some witnesses at the clubs and one player, and we are going to ask more witnesses to quality-control the information we have got from the NFF and Follo," chief investigator Gro Smogeli told Reuters earlier on Wednesday.

Smogeli added that she had also been in contact with police in Sweden.

The NFF and the players' union, plus politicians and police are all trying to get to grips with the growing scandal.

"There is no doubt that match-fixing is a devastating problem to sport when it occurs, and that it threatens the whole foundation which sport rests on," Norway's culture minister Anniken Huitfeldt told Reuters by e-mail.

"GOOD MONEY"

In the wake of the investigation, former Southampton defender Claus Lundekvam told Norwegian broadcaster NRK he was involved in betting on aspects of games that he had control over during his time in the English Premier League.

Lundekvam, who played 53 games for Norwegian club Brann before moving to England in 1996, said he made "good money" betting with others on incidents such as the time of the first throw-in or the first yellow card during games he played in.

On Wednesday, Valerengen coach Martin Andresen, who plays for Follo FK in his spare time, told the Dagens Naringsliv newspaper he gambled on a Spanish league game after a tip-off from a player at one of the clubs involved that his team would lose.

Joachim Waltin, president of the Norwegian Players' Union, told Reuters gambling was a growing problem in the sport and his organisation was working with the NFF and the police to inform their members about the dangers.

"I think it's a problem here. We don't know how many but we've seen it in the last few years. We've seen a couple of players telling their stories about their problems.

"It's easier for them to ask for help and we can assist them in certain situations. With young players with money going through their hands and too much spare time outside of training, it's always a risk."

Waltin said there were clear rules about gambling that players have to follow and he had little time for those who gamble on their own results at home or abroad.

"Our attitude towards this is that we don't like it and we don't want it in Norwegian football, or in other countries."

NO POSTPONEMENTS

Police, politicians and the NFF are reviewing how they handle gambling and match-fixing to stop future incidents but the NFF said it was unlikely to postpone any more games.

"I think in the future we will not stop the match," Norwegian FA president Yngve Hallen told Reuters, "but we will give information to the referee, the [match] delegate and the clubs, and say that we suspect that this match has been fixed, and that we will be monitoring this match even more closely."

"It is difficult to judge how widespread the problem is in Norway or internationally," said minister Huitfeldt, who has initiated a national action plan to combat match-fixing.

"My view is that one incident of match-fixing is one too many."


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