Home » ‘Extremely obvious’: How police allege A-League players were sprung in yellow card betting plot

‘Extremely obvious’: How police allege A-League players were sprung in yellow card betting plot

The arrests came four months after police were alerted by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission to betting abnormalities on Macarthur FC yellow cards and formed Strike Force Beaconview.

By then, police allege the conspiracy had already been successful on two occasions – during a match against Melbourne Victory on November 24 and a fixture against Sydney FC on December 9.

In the latter game, the five yellow cards distributed by the referee to Macarthur FC players for foul play exceeded the over-and-under line of 3.5 set by markets in South America. A total of three would have fallen short of being successful, but once four cards were awarded, the bet came off, and hundreds of thousands of dollars were paid out, mostly in South America as a result, according to police.

Police allege 33-year-old Davila, who is Mexican, was the point man on the team for a South American crime figure pulling the strings and paid $10,000 each to Baccus, 32, and Lewis, 27.

Detectives say it is unclear what payment Davila received for controlling the alleged plot in Australia or how he was connected with the crime identity. “We’ll be alleging he received some form of payment or benefit for it,” Faux said. “We’re not sure how they knew each other, but we’re alleging it’s pretty obvious that they have a familiarisation with each other.”

Macarthur FC player Kearyn Baccus at Campbelltown police station.Credit: Oscar Colman

In reviewing the two matches in which the scheme allegedly came off and watching two other games live in which it failed, on April 20 and May 4, investigators say they were struck by the lack of subtlety in how the Macarthur FC players under scrutiny had their names entered into the referee’s book.

Police say some of the acts penalised with yellow cards, including a rugby-style tackle by Baccus and Davila’s prolonged dissent towards a referee, were brazen.

Police had continued to monitor Macarthur FC’s games as the A-League season drew towards a close, frantically trying to gather the evidence they needed to ensure the competition’s integrity was not compromised for too long.

In the end, with the club knocked out of the finals and their season over, they made arrests on Friday because of the possibility, Faux said, “that one or more of them were going to go overseas in the very near future”.

Clayton Lewis in Parramatta after being arrested on betting corruption charges.

Clayton Lewis in Parramatta after being arrested on betting corruption charges.Credit: Edwina Pickles

In an era in which sporting contests are routinely broken down into dozens of micro markets by bookmakers, giving away yellow cards for betting purposes is not new to football. In the UK, former Lincoln City player Bradley Wood was banned for six years in 2018 for intentionally drawing bookings by referees in FA Cup matches, and people, including friends of his, won bets as a result.

Former Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka was also investigated by UK authorities over betting patterns that accompanied a yellow card he received in an English Premier League game against Leeds United in 2021 but was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing.

Police said they had found no indication of suspicious betting on the Macarthur FC yellow card markets with Australian wagering companies and nothing to suggest Davila had been subjected to threats from abroad to recruit his teammates and carry out the underhanded plan.

Macarthur FC chief executive Sam Krslovic said he was in shock at the allegations and had spoken to Davila on Friday.

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“Obviously, he’s having a hard time at the moment. He’s a single parent … his mother went back to Mexico, and his wife passed away about a year ago,” he told 2GB radio.

“But that’s not an excuse for what [is alleged to have] happened and transpired. What’s been alleged, there’s obviously some merit to it.”

Krslovic said he didn’t think anything was out of the norm at the time of the matches, but “looking back at some of those … yellow cards … I can see now, some of them, in hindsight, were ridiculous”.

NSW Police has engaged the powerful NSW Crime Commission to assist with the financial side of its investigation and is also working with the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and Sports Integrity Australia.

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