In-play betting scandal rocks EPL: Arsenal star facing possible ban

A flick through our site will tell you that we are partial to the occasional flutter but when you're a player – especially at the top level – you simply can't get sucked into the world of betting; not at all. Unfortunately, for Arsenal it looks likes they'll be facing a rather uncomfortable few weeks as the Football Association has opened investigation into suspected spot betting. Here we look at exactly what has happened with Arsenal, what spot betting is and take a walk down memory lane with one of English football's best known cases of illegal betting.

So, what is spot betting?

Before we crack on with the news relating to Arsenal, it's important that we all understand what is being implied with respect of the term ‘spot betting'. The act of spot betting involves a player taking a certain action within a game. It is not to be confused with match fixing, which is a much more serious allegation, as the action taken in spot betting doesn't have a direct impact on the result. Instead, you are more likely to see players commit to putting the ball out of play at a certain time – or something of a similarly seemingly meaningless ilk such as picking up a caution, which is the case in today's breaking news story.

What are Arsenal being accused of?

Right, let's get to the actual news. First things first, Arsenal Football Club are not being accused of anything. It is understood that a bookie – or, more accurately, a number of bookies – have raised the alarm over substantial and abnormal amounts being staked on a specific player being carded. At present, it is not known who the player involved is and nor do we know if that player has knowingly participated in the spot betting; the current line being peddled by the FA is that the patterns associated to the bet are under more focus than the player himself.

The only other nugget of information out in the public domain at this moment in time is that the spot betting only occurred in one game; it was a Premier League match that took place earlier this season. The case remains under investigation. As for Arsenal as a club, they are aware of the incident being investigated but are yet to comment.

How big was the bet in question?

We have already touched on the fact that a number of bookies have raised the alarm on this suspected spot betting. The latest word though has shone the light on a couple of specific wagers. The key bet, which is said to be the first that was raised to the International Watchdog, involved a stake of over £300k. Given the market this bet would have been placed on – specific player bookings – the odds would have been rather handsome too so any return will have seen that stake of £300k at least double. When you then consider that it's not unusual to see odds of 10/1 (11.00) in these markets you can understand why it's such a high profile story; you're talking about big money in addition to the disrepute it could bring to the sport.

In addition to the £300k bet, which we understand was placed pre-match, there has been a second significant bet placed on the in-play market. Again, this bet was backing the same unknown player to be carded but to the tune of £55k. It is not confirmed whether bets associated to any smaller stakes are under investigation but, given what we know, it wouldn't be a huge shock.

Is spot betting common place?

For obvious reason, spot betting is an illegal practice. In England, instances of spot betting have been few and far between over the years with many believing it's not worth the risk given the handsome rewards they bank from their lofty wages and other commercial deals etc. That doesn't mean it hasn't happened though and in the lower divisions and other leagues around the world it is understood to be rife.

It's not just on faraway shores either with a recent study (conducted part way through 2021) by Sportradar Integrity Services revealing that Europe had the most instances of attempted manipulation. Plenty of other continents are flooded with elements of it too though; North America was found to have the lowest number of ‘fixes'. Of course, it's not just in football where this illegal practice happens either with cricket just one other that has been badly impacted in the past. That said, it is believed that football is the worst effected sport.

Remember when Le God was a very naughty boy?

Before we sign off, we thought we'd look at a known spot fixing incident. Step forward Matt Le Tissier. Le Tissier, who starred for Southampton in his playing days before bringing laughter to Saturday afternoons on Sky Sports, is perhaps the best known instance of spot betting in England's top flight. Rewind to 1995 – when wages weren't as bonkers – and Le Tissier and a friend or two backed Southampton's game versus Wimbledon to see a throw in inside 60 seconds of KO to the tune of £10k. He failed to put the ball out of play though and, thus, lost the bet.

Matt Le Tissier of Southampton

News of Le Tiss' spot betting fiasco didn't come out until he released a book after his career had ended; whilst it wasn't a good look, the FA couldn't impose any ban on him. Where you can draw some comparisons to this Arsenal news, however, is with lower league player Bradley Wood. Wood, formerly of Lincoln City, received a six year ban for betting offences including the collection of deliberate yellow cards! That was in 2018.

Watch this space, it could get ugly for Arsenal. Of course, it could just turn out that it was Granit Xhaka who was booked in which case this is all a storm in a teacup because he gets carded in his sleep.

I'll get my coat.