13th July, 2012
LONDON: FIFA have launched a probe into allegations by Claus Lundekvam that he and former Southampton team-mates were involved in football corruption.
And Sportsmail has learned that former Saints players are furious over the Norwegian’s claims that football spot-fixing was rife at the club.
World football’s governing body confirmed they would investigate accusations that Southampton players — and other Premier League stars — would place bets on particular incidents in matches, for example who would win the first throw-in, and then collude to ensure they happened.
‘FIFA are monitoring this issue and involved their chief investigator in England,’ read a statement. ‘Once all the investigation is known it will be decided who will lead the investigations.’
Lundekvam’s claims cast a huge question mark on the Southampton sides of the late Nineties and early 2000s.
The former Norway defender, who was at the club between 1996 and 2008, made specific allegations regarding corners and penalties, suggesting the practice involved the captains of other Premier League clubs, who were aware of the betting scam.
Matt Le Tissier lifted the lid on his part in an attempted betting scam 17 years ago in his autobiography Taking Le Tiss.
The former Southampton and England midfielder revealed he colluded with friends who placed a spread bet on the time of the first throw-in during a game against Wimbledon in 1995.
He planned to kick the ball into touch from the kick-off to beat bookies who were predicting it would take nearly a minute for it to go out.
Le Tissier would have landed around £10,000 but team-mate Neil Shipperley, unaware of the bet, stopped the ball going out.
He admitted: “Spread betting had just started to be popular.
‘I’d never have done anything that might have affected the outcome of the match, but I couldn’t see a problem with making a few quid on the first throw-in.
‘The problem was Neil Shipperley knew nothing about the bet and headed it back. I charged around desperately trying to kick the ball out. We stood to lose a lot if it went much longer than 75 seconds.
‘I had visions of guys coming to kneecap me. Eventually we got the ball out on 70 seconds. The neutral time meant we had neither won nor lost. I have never tried spread betting since.’
Since retiring, Lundekvam has suffered from depression and admitted to alcohol and drug abuse. A number of former club personalities were left questioning the credibility of his claims.
Dave Jones, who managed Southampton between 1997 and 2000, said: ‘I know nothing about what Claus has said. Absolutely nothing. I never heard anything like that discussed in the dressing room, either. I’m sure I would have heard the tiniest whispers if it had been anything like a common occurrence.’
Lundekvam’s former team-mate Egil Ostenstad said: ‘I was at four different clubs in British football and never experienced anything like Claus is describing.’
Paul Williams, who played for Southampton for three seasons, said: ‘I sat next to Claus in the dressing room and was his partner at centre half. I can’t speak about what happened before I arrived at the club but nothing untoward happened that I was aware of while I was there.’
In his autobiography, Taking Le Tiss, Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier revealed there was a failed attempt to win £10,000 on a throw-in taking place inside the first minute against Wimbledon in 2005.
But Le Tissier tweeted yesterday: ‘Aside from that one incident in my book, I’ve never been involved in any betting scams and have no idea of Claus Lundekvam’s claims.’
Lundekvam, 39, made the allegations to a Norwegian newspaper, claiming he bet on his own matches and that players pooled the money, a scam that went on for years.
He said: ‘It’s not something I’m proud of. For a while, we did this almost every week. We made a fair bit of money.’
The allegations have echoes of the spot-fixing claims made against the Pakistan cricket team that eventually led to Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer being convicted.
Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, said he would co-operate fully with the FA over the allegations to ‘ensure that we preserve the integrity of our game’.
Betting industry experts have been quick to point out flaws in Lundekvam’s claims.
Bill Esdaile, of PR firm squareintheair.com who have several leading bookmaking firms among their clients, suggests the type of wagers that Lundekvam alleges he made were simply not available for the bulk of his career.