League moves to investigate allegations of players' bets

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The Rugby League will today launch an investigation into damaging allegations that two St Helens internationals placed bets against their own team after finding that they were fielding a weakened side at Bradford on Easter Monday.

The Rugby League will today launch an investigation into damaging allegations that two St Helens internationals placed bets against their own team after finding that they were fielding a weakened side at Bradford on Easter Monday.

Sean Long and Martin Gleeson are alleged to have won £909 each after bets were placed by telephone on their accounts. It is claimed that Long placed bets of £600 and £400 at odds of 10-11 that Bradford would win by at least nine points. It is alleged that a similar bet of £1,000 was placed on Gleeson's account. St Helens lost the televised Super League game at Odsal 54-8.

John Huxley, a spokesman for the Rugby League, said last night that an investigation would be held to see if the players had a case to answer. "Betting is against our rules," he said.

The game was a controversial one from the moment that the Saints coach, Ian Millward, named a team lacking 13 regular first-teamers - all of whom he claimed were injured - and including five teenagers making their debuts.

Rumours of a severely weakened team were circulating from Easter Sunday evening. It is alleged that the bets were placed shortly after 6pm on Sunday.

Long, the regular Great Britain scrum-half, was one of those who missed the match. He was quoted last night as saying that he had placed the bet on behalf of a friend.

Gleeson, also a Great Britain representative and a close friend of Long's, played in the game and scored the try which put Saints ahead. Gleeson, Millward and the Saints' chief executive, Sean McGuire, were unavailable for comment last night.

If the allegations are proved, it will be a major blow to the credibility of the game. However, critics will feel that the sport has laid itself open to such problems by changing the regulations governing the strength of teams.

After Saints won their appeal against a £25,000 fine for fielding a weakened team at Bradford in the 2002 season, the Rugby League changed its by-laws to allow teams to field any combination of players, provided they are registered as "Super League capable". All the St Helens players at Odsal met that criteria, but anyone with a passing knowledge of the game - let along current players - could have predicted that the team Millward intended to field would lose heavily.

Millward reacted angrily to criticism of his selection after the game and the League admitted a day later that there was nothing it could do about the situation.

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