The All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Goa Football Association (GFA) are not on the same page regarding six matches in the Goa Professional League identified for ‘suspicious betting patterns indicative of match manipulation’, which as per a former FIFA official should be addressed on priority.
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 informed the All India Football Federation (AIFF) integrity officer Siraj in March.
GFA secretary Jovito Lopes said his organisation had conducted an investigation and also caught hold of one person — Gabriel Fernandes — who was giving ball-by-ball commentary of Goa League matches but said match-fixing could not be proved due to a lack of evidence.
GFA had sent a letter to Siraj on March 9 stating that the suspected person was caught red-handed while he was giving the commentary during an I-League match at Margao on March 8 between Churchill Brothers and Gokulam Kerala FC.
The suspected person was having an I-League media accreditation card which said he was a reporter of Genius Group, which is allegedly linked to Bet 365.
“There is no conclusive evidence. These are separate issues,” Siraj told IANS on Tuesday when asked about GFA’s report on March 9 regarding the Goa Pro League matches’ investigation.
“GFA sent a two-line letter regarding the Goa Pro League matter on March 6. They said ‘we are looking into this matter’. It was like an acknowledgement.
“See if this guy is a player, he can attend matches. The report is not conclusive enough. You need evidence to prove anything. So see we are still awaiting the investigation report on the matter and then we will take it forward. This is not to be confused with the March 9 letter from GFA,” said Siraj, a former CBI officer.
When contacted, GFA secretary Lopes said not only did they send a letter on March 9, there was another note sent on Tuesday morning furnishing more details.
“We have explained everything in the letter. The same person who was present in the I-League match on March 8 was also doing the same ball-by-ball commentary of Goa League matches. So there is a connection there,” Lopes told IANS.
“We started investigation the moment we got the letter on March 5. We cannot say that he is involved but then the same person is doing the same thing in I-League and Goa Pro League matches.
“We are still to hear anything from AIFF after the March 9 letter. We sent him a note today morning also apprising of further developments,” said Lopes.
Meanwhile Shaji Prabhakaran, a former FIFA South Central Asian Development Officer and current president of Football Delhi, has said that Indian leagues are in great demand for betting markets and added that “When demand is growing, there will be people who will try to manipulate by getting into your system”.
“This GFA thing is not surprising for me because the suspicion was there. Right now these are all suspicions and it is not proven. Now is the right time for Indian football to be more proactive and put a system in place,” Shaji said.
“These things can impact football commercially at a time when sport is in critical juncture.
“We have to protect the game in every way. That’s why as a local association we have partnered with Sportsradar,” he said.
“This is a very serious issue which has come to the notice of AIFF involving Goan football and this should be dealt with utmost intensity. If local leagues are suspicious, they can penetrate to any competition,” he added.