In what could be a telling revelation for the latest scandal to rock Australian sports, members of the embattled Southern Stars soccer team spent a week in Bali shortly before being arrested on Sunday, according to Fox Sports.
Southern Stars players and fans whoop it up after being promoted to Level 1 of the VFL in 2011. They face being expelled altogether after arrests were made in connection to a match-fixing scandal.
The players reportedly stayed at the W Bali - Seminyak Hotel, where the cheapest room costs $360 per night. Most of the players were reportedly signed to contracts paying under $3000 a month. They also enjoyed the nightlife and natural attractions of the island-resort, including surfing, snorkeling, and an encounter with primates in a local forest park.
The said individuals, including eight players and a coach, were alleged to have worked with an international syndicate to fix matches. The players were named as Cristian Cristea, Ryan Hervel, Joe Woolley, Nicholas McKoy, Tamas Nagy, Jiri Kabele, Reiss Noel and David Obaze. An estimated $2 million was won by the syndicate, which placed bets through agencies based overseas, Asia in particular. Football Federation Australia sought the help of police after betting monitor Sportradar presented statistics that showed a spike in interest in games involving the Southern Stars.
"Bets from India, Asia, Singapore, China on these local teams. I think you'll find that there are other sports that will be investigated and are under the spotlight as far as the Australian Federal Police is concerned," Seven Network journalist Jim Wilson told CNN.
The president of the ballclub, Ercan Cicek, told police that the Southern Stars were approached via email in 2012, offering the services of British players at little cost.
"Our committee members are thinking, 'Oh beautiful, five players for free, we're not going to pay anything, it's a big, big bonus'," Cicek said.
The Stars' coach, Zaya Younan, also offered his services free of charge and even told the club that he will bring in sponsors. It was an offer that seemed too good to be true as Younan delivered on his promises to bring in sponsorship money.
As the Stars plummeted to the bottom of the VPL ladder, winning only one game versus four draws and 16 losses, Younan simply described the losses as "unlucky". Their only win, as it turned out, was a shock 1-0 victory over league-leading Northcote City.
As of Sunday night, five of the players were being questioned by authorities. The FFA is aiming to mete life bans for all involved, on top of the legal charges being faced by six of the arrested individuals. The life bans will also be forwarded to FIBA, which could possibly ban those implicated from playing anywhere.
"We will throw the book at perpetrators of this sort, and that means life bans. It's clearly distressing, but we all know this threat exists. We need to stay vigilant, and we've seen how important our monitoring service is for football," FFA CEO David Gallop told News.com.au on Sunday.
Also implicated is a Malaysian, Gerry Gsubramanian, who is allegedly the contact person for the overseas betting syndicates.
"[Gsubramanian] receives phone calls. He is given advice on how the Southern Stars players are to perform," detective Scott Poynder was quoted as telling the court. Poynder also indicated that video of the thrown matches showed unusually poor games by those involved, and that bets on the Southern Stars reached hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Despite the Southern Stars management's protestations of innocence, the club will likely be stripped of their points, and may play the rest of their season without earning any points. In addition, they face possible expulsion from the VFL.
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