BPL could be a target for match-fixers, says Barnes

The Premier League would be a prime target for match-fixers according to the president of the European players' union.

Everton v Liverpool

Two men were charged on Thursday as part of an investigation into alleged football match-fixing, the National Crime Agency said, and the pair will appear at Cannock Magistrates' Court in Staffordshire on Friday.

The arrests were made following an investigation by the Daily Telegraph during which undercover reporters discussed the possibility of influencing the scores and outcomes of lower-league English games for as little as £50,000.

Five other men were bailed on Thursday pending further inquiries. The suspects are reported to include three current footballers.

It is not believed that any Premier League sides are involved in the allegations.

Bobby Barnes, president of FIFPro Division Europe and deputy chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, believes the betting market at the top end of English football would make any opportunity to corrupt the Premier League one that a fixer would jump at.

Barnes said: "Unfortunately we have already seen the impact match-fixing has had on several leagues across eastern Europe and indeed in Asia, and without doubt the Premier League would be - given the size of the potential market - very much on the radar of these match-fixers.

"It's something we at the PFA take very, very seriously and indeed we do with FIFPro on a global level. We have a global project called 'Don't Fix It', whereby players are encouraged and educated along the lines of ... if they are approached and if anybody does come to them with these suggestions, that they ring the appropriate authorities and make it clear they are not going to take part in this and it is going to be reported."

Discussing the potential for corruption in English football by prospective fixers, Barnes said on BBC Radio Five Live: "I don't think any of us were naive enough to think we were immune to the potential attack to our game from these people.

"These people are criminal gangs and they will be looking to find the most lucrative markets. English football without doubt would have the biggest gambling market out there and if they could manipulate that there are obviously rich pickings to be had for these criminals.

"The message we have for players is that if you do get tempted into this sort of thing you could end up in a prison cell."

Barnes suggested anyone looking to fix games would target "vulnerable" players, who may need quick cash.

"But once they're ensnared, players are ensnared," Barnes said, "and I think it's important that we don't just concentrate on the players, because the players are very much the final link in this chain of criminal gangs who seek to manipulate games for financial gain."

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