Football cheats

The reports that the UK gambling giant William Hill plc may in the future emulate other gambling groups by abandoning betting on certain football matches if it is alerted to suspicious betting patterns.

Irish betting firm Paddy Power suspended betting on nearly all end-of-season games in the Irish football league in April .

William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe told the Independent that the betting company will be looking "much more closely" at end-of-season games where the teams effectively have nothing to play for.

“When you are taking a lot of money for a game of that nature your first thought is why?” said Sharpe.

Suspicious cases have been referred to the Gambling Commission in recent years by William Hill and other betting companies.

Sharpe highlighted Weymouth’s 9-0 home defeat to Rushden & Diamonds in February and said that news spread before the match that Weymouth’s senior players would not be turning out, allowing some punters to cash in on a Rushden win.

However, taking such a drastic course would only be considered as a last resort, said Sharpe. “We have no plans to implement that situation but we couldn’t rule it out," he said. “At the end of next season we will be looking much more closely at games.

“If we identify any unusual or suspicious betting patterns we would reserve the right to take the ultimate action. I can see us reacting much more quickly.”

An individual suspicious high stakes bet was likely to be turned down, he said. If a particular game was then targeted with more unusual bets there was a possibility all bets on that game could be abandoned.

However, Sharpe said that William Hill did not want to undermine faith in the game. “Over the years only a tiny percentage of games have caused any problems," he said. “But we would decline a bet if it was very unusual and we couldn’t make a book on it.”

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