Canaries hit back in match-fix row

NORWICH City and Derby County last night joined forces to hit back at rumours that they are at the centre of match-fixing allegations.

NORWICH City and Derby County last night joined forces to hit back at rumours that they are at the centre of match-fixing allegations.

Senior officials from both Championship clubs vented their anger on Norfolk MPs Ian Gibson and Norman Lamb for “outing” the teams with questions in the House of Commons, suggesting the politicians stick to more serious social issues.

However, the MPs defended their stance saying it was important to bring such allegations “out from behind closed doors.”

Last night, the MPs told the government and Football Association to urgently “get to the bottom” of rumours over match-fixing involving a Norwich City game.

North Norfolk Mr Lamb said the rumours surrounding the Canaries' 2-1 defeat to Derby earlier this month were “deeply troubling” and the “allegations go the heart of the integrity of the game.”

He said it was “utterly extraordinary” that the FA had not started an investigation earlier - and he fiercely defended bringing the allegations into the open.

Most Read

The issue was brought up in Parliament and the leader of the House of Commons Harriet Harman vowed to raise it with media, culture and sport secretary Andy Burnham.

The FA said on Saturday that it was examining documents sent to them by a newspaper concerning possible match-fixing in an unnamed match.

It was reported that bookmakers detected a “massive movement'” in bets in Asia at around half-time in a Coca-Cola Championship match.

An expert at British trading firm Spreadex yesterday claimed he had “not seen anything like this in 10 years of working in the industry”.

Last night Carrow Road chief executive Neil Doncaster said there was “no reason” to believe that anybody at Norwich was involved and called for the issue to be sorted out quickly.

He was also critical of the way Norfolk MPs had gone public about the allegations in the House of Commons before talking to the club, while Derby chairman Adam Pearson launched a stinging attack on Mr Lamb and Norwich North MP Dr Gibson, who are both long-time City fans.

“We have had no contact with the FA, we have no reason to believe that anyone from Norwich City is involved in any way, and we are disappointed that certain individuals have chosen to ask questions in Parliament rather than come to us and ask us directly,” Mr Doncaster said.

“I think it is very important that everybody at the club has their names cleared as soon as possible and if there is to be an investigation into that, that it is concluded and Norwich City cleared as soon as is practical.

“I have spoken to Glenn (Roeder) and appraised him of the reports, and their focus is rightly on the game on Saturday and that's the way it should be.”

But Mr Pearson was more forthcoming in his attacks.

“We heard the rumours flying around but we weren't taking them particularly seriously,” he said. “Two MPs have raised it as a matter for their own political self means in Norwich to create themselves a bit of profile.”

Pearson added: “Maybe they should concentrate on trying to stop people being killed in city centres rather than worrying about what is a job for the FA and the Football League to govern their own clubs properly.

“I find the whole thing so far-fetched, it's beyond belief. For the integrity of two clubs such as Norwich and Derby to be questioned in any way I find laughable. I think they should concentrate on what they know best, which I'm presuming is politics.”

Mr Lamb said Pearson's attack was “extraordinary” and “rather ridiculous.”

“Had it not been for me and Ian it would not have been in the public domain. A very serious allegation would be kept behind closed doors and that is not right.

“I was amazed to discover that the FA had not been investigating earlier. The FA is often accused of incompetence and complacency and that rather reinforces the concern

Dr Gibson described Pearson's comments as “unfair” and defended raising the issue and said the authorities had to act quickly.

"Sport has got to be absolutely clean or it will lose public support if people are seen to be doing these sorts of things.

“We can't let this go on too long. The FA inquiry has to be short and sharp. Fans will be talking about it in the pubs and not just Derby and Norwich fans but fans of teams who will be playing against them too. I'm sure the players will be talking too, as indirectly they been implicated in this.

“We care passionately about the game and we are beholden as MPs to represent fans.”

The Sunday Telegraph sent a document to the FA and the Gambling Commission detailing the alleged unexplained betting patterns.

Yesterday an FA spokesman said: “The FA can confirm that it is investigating an allegation regarding the match between Norwich City and Derby County on October 4. We are looking into whether there is any substance to this allegation.

“There is no fixed timescale to our inquiries and there will be no further comment at this time.”

Mr Burnham refused to comment on the match-fixing probe following an appearance at the Supporters Direct conference in Westminster yesterday afternoon.

Asked about the progress of the match-fixing investigation, he replied: “I don't really want to comment on that.”

FA chairman Lord Triesman confirmed: “There is an inquiry going on and the staff are determined to go into this in fine detail.”

Mr Lamb is writing to the FA asking that he and Dr Gibson can meet chief executive Brian Barwick to “stress the seriousness of the allegations and to get more information.”

He said the FA was showing “inertia.”

Earlier in the Commons, Mr Lamb said: “I am calling on the FA and the Sports Minister (Gerry Sutcliffe) to make an urgent statement today to confirm exactly what is known and what is happening in terms of the investigation.”

“I want confirmation that it is being treated with the utmost seriousness because it goes to the heart of the integrity of the game.

“None of these allegations may have any foundation, but it is deeply troubling for the clubs involved. Nobody wants a smear hanging over them. It needs to be cleared up.”

A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said: “Ministers take the integrity of sport and gambling very seriously, which is why the Government recently introduced a new offence of cheating at gambling which carries a maximum two-year jail sentence.

“We want there to be no hiding place for cheats and it is right the FA investigate these serious allegations thoroughly.

“Should evidence that the law has been broken emerge, it is for the relevant authorities such as the Gambling Commission or the police to conduct that investigation.”

No specific allegations have been made against any individual player involved in the match and there is no suggestion of any untoward activity by anyone on the pitch.

Derby manager Paul Jewell said: "It's ludicrous as far as I'm concerned. It does leave a bit of a bitter taste and a cloud hanging over the game because we had got a great result.

“I think it will end up being a non-story to be honest but we could do without it. I would rather talk about the game on Saturday rather than something that allegedly happened.

“I'm not privy to what's gone on in the Far East or wherever it was but to have our name mentioned alongside this is not nice. It will go away, I'm sure of that, because there's nothing in it.

“I don't know how you can fix a game, I really don't know how it's possible to do that. If the goalie says he's going to throw a goal in, can he guarantee he's not going to concede another goal or there's not going to be a goal down the other end?

“To me it's just imponderable that anything like that could happen. It's impossible because there are 22 players or 26 or 28 involved in a football match so it's just preposterous."

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter