Four arrested in Premiership match-rigging investigation

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FOUR MEN have been arrested as part of a wide-ranging inquiry into the suspected rigging of Premiership football matches, police revealed last night.

The men, one Briton and three foreign nationals, were held on suspicion of burglary at the ground of Charlton Athletic Football Club in south London, Scotland Yard said.

The Football Association and the Metropolitan Police's Organised Crime Squad were investigating suspected damage to electrical equipment. One of the men arrested was a security guard at the ground.

Detectives are thought to be investigating links with football matches affected by floodlight failures. A police spokeswoman said: "We have been given by the FA a list of previous games where the power supply has failed. There have been failures during a number of high-profile Premiership matches."

Far East gambling syndicates were accused in December 1997 of arranging a floodlight failure at a televised Premier League match. Scotland Yard detectives were investigating the power failure at the Wimbledon versus Arsenal game at Selhurst Park, which followed previous problems at Derby and West Ham in the same season. The lights went off at the start of the second half when the score was 0-0.

Charlton Athletic are due to play Liverpool in a Premier League match tomorrow.

A single Premiership match can be worth millions of pounds to a Far East betting syndicate, and, as far as some bets are concerned, as soon as the game has passed the half-way mark the result stands even if it ends prematurely.

A spokesman for the bookmaker William Hill said the same rules do not apply in Britain. "Domestically, all bets are void if a match is abandoned, you keep your stake money but it's impossible to make any money," he said."There were suspicions in the Eighties that floodlights were deliberately tampered with, and at that time the outcome of an abandoned game stayed for betting purposes." He said the rules were designed to guard against any wrong- doing to prevent a match being completed.

The FA said last night: "We've provided the police with a list of previous floodlight failures. But they assure us it is too early to link such incidents to this case or to allegations of connections between football and gambling. Football is determined to play its part in helping the police ... The integrity of the game is crucial."