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Friday, February 12, 1999 Published at 13:11 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Asian gamblers target British football

There are fears that corruption could undermine the game

By David Willis in Singapore

The arrest of three men in connection with an alleged football betting scandal in the UK has heightened concerns in the Asian Football Federation that local gambling syndicates may have begun targeting British football.

Match fixing has long been the scourge of Asian soccer and the Secretary General of the Asian Football Confederation, Peter Velappan, said he believed the problem was spreading to the English premier league which is keenly followed in this part of the world.

'Debilitating menace'

Mr Velappan urged the English FA to launch a thorough investigation into what he called the debilitating menace of soccer corruption which he said could destroy the whole integrity of football.

At one stage illegal bookmaking syndicates threatened to bring the professional game to its knees in South East Asia.

So pernicious was the practice that in one season the Malaysian football authorities estimated that 90% of games were fixed.

The syndicates bribe key players either to play badly so their side loses or to play particularly well so the team wins, anything to ensure that the results don't go according to form.

That way they stand to collect more money.

English league matches are shown live on television here. Some teams even have fan clubs and many people prefer to bet on the outcome of those games because they are seen to be untainted by the syndicates.

Asian book makers pay according to the score at the time the game was abandoned, therefore for them to be able to sabotage the game - for example by making the floodlights fail when the score is in their favour - could potentially net them considerably more money.

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