Four League of Ireland players have contacted the Players' Football Association of Ireland in the past year claiming they have been approached online by people claiming to be able to fix matches.
The news which was revealed by The Times casts a shadow of the start of the season which begins on Friday night. Champions Dundalk begin their campaign the following night, looking to win their third league title in a row.
Former Longford Town player Colm James was given an 18-month ban in 2013 "on six counts of breaching FAI Rules associated with match integrity". One of the rules dealt with gambling/betting "that damages or could damage the integrity of matches".
Colm James (pictured third from right) at the 2012 League of Ireland launch. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Donall Farmer
Speaking to The Times, the PFAI's General-Secretary Stephen McGuinness said the FAI's deal with TrackChamp has opened up League of Ireland players to becoming vulnerable to match-fixers. The deal sees all Premier Division matches streamed online on specific betting websites.
None of the four players who contacted the PFAI are expected to be sanctioned as they reported the messages without responding to them. McGuinness feels though that match-fixers are so sophisticated, they may be able to gain access to players in the league.
“It is a huge concern because this is a billion-euro industry which stretches across leagues and the criminals are miles ahead of unions, associations, federations and legislation. It is so easy for them to get away with it and it’s the local league which is left with no integrity because of one or two people’s actions.”