The spectre of illegal betting and match-fixing marred the build-up to the Premier League relegation/promotion play-off between Mosta and Division One side Gżira United, it has emerged.

The Malta FA yesterday revealed that they had adopted a series of precautionary measures to minimise the threat of match-rigging and illegal gambling ahead of the decider, played at the National Stadium on May 15, after the two clubs involved had raised suspicions that their players were being offered money to throw the game.

“For the sake of correctness, the Malta FA informs that, in the case of the play-off between Mosta and Gżira United, in the days preceding the game, officials from both clubs approached the MFA Integrity Officer to inform him that they had a suspicion that their players were being offered sums of money to lose the game,” the Malta FA said in a statement.

“However, these declarations stemmed from suspicions that were not based on facts and no proof was produced at any time.

“Thereafter, the president of Gżira United asked the Malta FA to check whether it could intervene to prevent that bets are placed on this game.

“The MFA spoke to its close collaborators in the betting industry to see if this possibility existed and it was decided that, as a precaution, these partners should alert betting companies to have the game ‘unlisted’.

“The MFA contacted the police to inform them about these developments and, after the police saw that the allegations were based on rumours, they also agreed that the MFA did well to take the necessary precautions vis-a-vis the betting companies.”

The Malta FA issued the statement to rebut claims made in an article published in a Sunday newspaper which makes serious allegations against unnamed person/s within the association.

The statement adds that the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) received a letter from Gżira United claiming that they had “well-founded suspicions” that their play-off against Mosta was going to be the subject of corrupt acts for betting purposes.

No proof

Gżira United also wrote in their letter to the MGA that, according to rumours, the game was going to finish 3-2, the MFA said.

“At no time were the MGA provided with proof of what was being alleged by Gżira United,” the MFA claimed.

“However, the MGA also took preventive measures, advising betting companies that, if possible, they should not offer this game for betting purposes.”

The Malta FA said that decisive end-of-season matches always trigger rumours of bibery but, in 99 per cent of the cases, these are largely based on fear of losing the game or due to a lack of faith between the clubs concerned, rather than concrete facts.

Gżira United also released a statement yesterday in which they disassociated themselves from the article in question. The statement was signed by Sharlon Pace, the president of the Division One club.

Mosta retained their Premier League status after beating Gżira 2-0 in the play-off with late goals from Udo Fortune and Gary Roberts.

The latest controversy about illegal betting comes only a few days after two Maltese men, Robert Farrugia, the vice-president of Msida St Joseph, and his brother Adrian, the former team manager of Mosta, were implicated in the Dirty Soccer scandal in Italy.

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