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has match-fixing found the SPL?

Worrying signs north of the border as Scottish football has had some very unusual matches of late, backed up by suspicious betting patterns. The common denominator in both matches: Hearts.

Motherwell midfielder Steve Jennings is in the spotlight this week after his red card in Tuesday night's match against Hearts was predicted by a lot of punters, particularly new ones, wanting to have bets well above the average for this usually trivial market. Several bookmakers have reported clusters of bets being placed on 'A Red Card to be awarded' at 10/1 on this match, far and above the average for a televised SPL match, with a widespread of accts, lumpy bets and numerous new accounts, particularly from the Liverpool area, where Jennings has links from one of his previous clubs, Tranmere.

SPL - Jennings in betting probe over red card

Motherwell midfielder Steve Jennings has denied any wrongdoing after bookmakers began an investigation into betting patterns over the red card he picked up against Hearts at Fir Park on Tuesday.

The Association of British Bookmakers acted after a number of bets were placed on there being a red card during Motherwell's 2-1 defeat.

Jennings, after being booked by referee Stevie O'Reilly for a foul on Kevin Kyle, was shown a straight red card seven minutes from the end after putting his hand on the official's shoulder and speaking to him about a rejected penalty claim.



Hearts were also involved in a suspicious match last month against St Johnstone. Hearts won the match 2-0, but it was the first goal that caused the controversy. Kevin Kyle scored from the spot, but the penalty itself was given away by Jamie Adams, whose sister Kyle got engaged to during that week.

Sounds innocent you say, purely coincidence? This game wasn't available for live betting with many European firms as it wasn't televised, but Asian bookies who bet on just about any match via the RunningBall service (live spotters at the ground), had Hearts priced significantly under the standard pre-match odds, even after an hour when the score was 0-0. By that stage the draw should have shortened significantly, pushing the odds for both teams out noticeably. Generally, these price moves are all automated by algorithms according to the score and the clock. When they aren't, it invariably means something dodgy is up. You'll never get an official statement out of Asian bookies, but the prices tell the story. As McCririck would say 'they knew', but this time it might actually be right.

So what's the explanation behind it? Is it football's version of spot-fixing, or perhaps it's part of an evil plan to push Hearts up the table to increase their sale price or get them into the Europa League. Perhaps Jennings wanted to get pissed at Xmas didn't fancy playing against Celtic and Rangers over Xmas-New Year and told a few folks about it.

Who knows, other than there will be investigations into this, but knowing most of the lame football match-fixing investigations in the past in the UK, I doubt we'll see any guilty party locked up for a considerable period of time....

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