Sheffield Wednesday
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By ESPN Staff

FA to probe irregular betting on Grays match

The Football Association are to investigate suspicious betting patterns at a lower league match after large amounts of money were staked on a 22-1 outcome.

The FA were called in by bookmakers after Sunday's Conference match between Grays Athletic and Forest Green Rovers.

Two bookies, William Hill and Blue Square, suspended betting the day before the game after a large number of bets - including three-figure sums - were placed on Grays to win after trailing at half-time. The match ended 2-1 to Grays, a team from Essex, who were losing 1-0 at the break.

An FA spokesman said: "We take these matters very seriously and we will investigate.''

William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe said: "When you have a meaningless end-of-season match you are not expecting to take much money and all of a sudden you are being offered a large number of bets for one outcome and some relatively substantial bets.

"It was a 22-1 shot for the home team to be losing at half-time and to win at full-time.

"The biggest sum placed was a three-figure bet so we suspended betting on Saturday afternoon. Interestingly, another bookmaker unbeknown to us did the same thing which suggests this not a freak occurrence.''

The sums involved were not as high as that staked on the Accrington Stanley v Bury match last season which has led to the FA charging six players with breaching betting rules. On that game, one bookie alone took £281,000 in bets, 20 times the normal sum.

Sharpe said there was no reason for the heavy betting on the Grays v Forest Green game such as occurred two months ago when news spread among fans that another Blue Square Premier side Weymouth would be forced to play a team of youngsters against Rushden and Diamonds.

"If you can see an explanation you adjust the odds but if can't then you have to pull the plug on the game and report it to the Gambling Commission, which is the action we took,'' said Sharpe.

Grays have issued statement in which they offered their full support to any investigation.

The statement added: "Grays Athletic Football Club do not condone any form of corruption and there is certainly no room for this in football.''

Meanwhile, a date has yet to be set for the FA to hear the disciplinary charges against the six players charged over the Accrington game. The FA have extended the date for the players to respond to the charges to May 7. (re-opens)

Den Strudwick, general manager of the Football Conference, admitted he was still "gathering information'' about the match.

"We're wanting to find out what we can about the case,'' he told PA Sport.

"We've already had a phone call from one of the clubs to say 'we don't know what it's on about, it's nothing to do with us' so we're just gathering information at the moment.

"I've had very little information on it apart from what I've just read on Ceefax and a phone call from the home club.

"I've just had a phone call from the Grays chairman and that's the first I've heard of it.''


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