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'Serious concerns' over match fixing after four players fined and banned 22/07/2009

Disciplinary officials have expressed "serious concerns" that a Football League match may have been fixed after four players were banned for between five months and a year for betting on the outcome.

The four players have been suspended and fined after betting on the outcome of the League Two match between Accrington and Bury on 3 May 2008 – three of the players were with Stanley at the time and the other at Bury, who won the game 2-0.

Jay Harris has been banned for a year and fined a total of £5,500 by an independent FA regulatory commission, David Mannix has been given a 10-month ban and fined £4,000, and Robert Williams suspended for eight months and fined £3,500. Andrew Mangan, who was then a Bury player, has been banned for five months and fined £2,000 for betting on his team to win.

Nicholas Stewart QC, chairman of the regulatory commission, said in a statement: "The regulatory commission have serious concerns that the outcome of the match may have been fixed although none of the players were charged with these offences."

The decision follows a 10-month investigation. The FA's rules on betting prohibit players from staking money on any match or competition in which they are participating or on which they have "direct or indirect influence".

The case against Accrington skipper Peter Cavanagh, who was also charged, will be heard at a later date. Both he and Harris played in the match.

The four Accrington players were charged with betting thousands of pounds on their team to lose: Mannix was alleged by the FA to have bet approximately £4,000; Harris £2,000; Williams £1,000; and Cavanagh on a £5 accumulator.

Mangan was charged with staking £3,500 on his side to win, while Harris' total fine includes £500 for betting on at least one other match after he had moved to Chester City.

The regulatory commission chairman added: "The suspensions and fines are imposed because the FA rules restricting betting by players (and others) on matches or competitions in which they are involved are vital to ensure public confidence in the integrity of football and the absolute straightness of all football matches.

"These players were all in blatant breach of the rules. Three of the players, (Mannix, Harris and Williams) were Accrington players at the time and actually bet on the opposing team, Bury, to win. Actions which would shock any fair minded football fan. Mr Harris even played for Accrington in that match.

"Mr Mangan did at least bet on his own club to win but was nevertheless in serious breach of this important rule.

"The betting offence committed against Mr Harris when he was a Chester City player merits a less severe penalty but was a clear breach of The FA rule E8(a) committed after he had already been interviewed and advised of likely charges in relation to the Accrington v Bury matter under the same rule."

The FA were alerted after bookmakers in the north-west reported unusual betting patterns in the lead-up to the match with unusually high amounts being staked in particular areas of the country.

A lengthy investigation uncovered enough evidence to bring the charges but FA sources believed they only scratched the surface in terms of the amount of money actually bet.

One bookmaker, Betfair, took £281,000 on Accrington Stanley to lose – some 14 times more than they would normally expect. William Hill suspended betting when large stakes were still being wagered even when the odds had been cut to 10/11 on a Bury win.

Most matches at a similar level on the same weekend saw a total of around £20,000 being staked. The FA changed the referee and assistants at the last minute to ensure no shadow of suspicion would affect them.

Cavanagh and Mannix are former Liverpool trainees, while Harris was a trainee at Everton. Cavanagh and Williams were still registered with Accrington last season while Mannix was at Chester. Mangan moved from Bury to Blue Square Premier side Forest Green.