The coverage given to the World Cup
and State of Origin this week has put on the backburner serious allegations concerning
a link between betting plunges on racing and football matches – but it won’t be
on the backburner for much longer. Last Saturday’s SMHalleged a link between racing identity Eddie Hayson and an upmarket Sydney brothel.

Hayson races horses in association with
Andrew and Matthew Johns and was linked by sections of the media with massive betting
plunges on games involving the Newcastle Knights. He has denied any involvement
in a massive bet against the Knights just before it was known that Andrew Johns
would be forced out through injury.

But last weekend’s SMH allegations,
followed up by Jeff Wells’s article in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, are much
more serious for racing and rugby league. The allegation is that “on Friday night
you’ll find jockeys, and football players, and big punters at Stiletto (the
named brothel) working things out”.

An unnamed bookmaker told Wells the
plunges that followed had a remarkable success race – and apparently they were
plunges mainly on horses. Given the massive growth in sports betting in the
last year it is likely the big punters were interested in betting on football
matches as well.

Now football players have been indirectly
linked to one of the biggest – and successful – betting plunges in Sydney racing in
years. And this happened just two days ago! A racehorse named Typhoon Zed was backed in
from $17 to $8.50 at Canterbury races and duly saluted. It happens to be part-owned by the Penrith
Panthers star, Craig Gower, and former NRL first grader, Scott Pethybridge.

Stewards opened an inquiry after the race
and are now quizzing leading jockey, Zac Purton, on his ride on the unplaced second
favourite in the race. This incident may be pure coincidence – but the timing
could hardly be worse. This whole saga has, I am told, a long way
to go, and its potential to damage rugby league, and other sports, is massive. The sooner federal and state governments
properly regulate sports betting the better. That won’t stop rorts – but it
will increase the change of rorts being exposed.

Peter Fray

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