Lucas Paqueta Faces Serious, Potentially Career-Ending Spot-Fixing Charges

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Brazil and West Ham soccer star Lucas Paqueta was charged by England’s Football Association (FA) Thursday with deliberately seeking to “receive a card from the referee for the improper purpose of affecting the betting market.”

Lucas Paqueta receives a yellow card during a game against Leicester City at the London Stadium in November 2022. The incident is one of four that form the basis of spot-fixing charges filed against the player today. (Image: Press Association)

The seriousness of the charges are unprecedented in the English Premier League.

In a brief statement, Paqueta said he “denied the charges in their entirety,” adding that he would “fight with every breath to clear my name.”

If found guilty, Paqueta’s career could be over. He is just 26 years old.

FA Probe

An FA investigation was triggered last summer by reports of suspicious betting patterns around an injury-time yellow card Paqueta received in West Ham’s draw at Bournemouth on August 12, 2023.

It subsequently expanded to include bookings received in three additional games: against Leicester City on November 12, 2022, Aston Villa on March 12, 2023, and Leeds United on May 21, 2023.

Manchester City Deal Sunk

News of the investigation torpedoed Paqueta’s planned transfer to Manchester City in the summer of 2023. The current English Premier League champion had agreed a deal in principle to sign the up-and-coming star. Many expected the deal to be revived this summer if Paqueta were cleared.

Some of the suspicious bets were placed in Duque de Caxias, a city on Brazil’s Guanabara Bay. Paqueta hails from Paqueta Island, a tiny land mass in Guanabara Bay. His real name is Lucas Tolentino Coelho de Lima, but he adopted “Paqueta” as a tribute to his birthplace.

Other sketchy bets were placed with West Ham’s jersey sponsor Betway, which does not take bets from Brazil.

Paqueta has not been charged with placing bets himself, but people close to him are suspected of doing so, The Times of London recently reported.

He is essentially accused of spot-fixing. This is where minute aspects of the game, such as yellow cards, are manipulated by a single player, rather a larger conspiracy to fix the actual result.

Spot-fixing at the elite level of English soccer is unheard of. It’s unclear why Paqueta, who earns around $9 million a year at West Ham, would agree to risk wrecking his career just as it was about to explode. The player would have earned significantly higher wages had he made the move to City.

Charges Unprecedented

While several Premier League players have been caught up in gambling scandals in recent years – usually for betting on games — none have been accused of manipulating the action. If Paqueta is found guilty, it would be unprecedented at this level.

It comes as major leagues in the US have expressed concern about the potential for spot-fixing in the new sports betting markets.

In April, the NBA dished out a lifetime ban to the Toronto Raptors’ Jontay Porter after he shared insider information with gamblers. This allowed them to profit from bets on his performance in two games last year.

Supporters of sports betting in the US, including NBA commissioner Adam Silver, argue that regulation means match-fixing is detected because licensed operators report suspicious betting patterns, thereby safeguarding the integrity of the game.

Detractors argue that illegal street corner bookies do not offer in-play bets on the performance of individual players.

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