The Criminal Court handed prison sentences to 15 players, referees and officials on Thursday, in Thai football’s first case of match-fixing since the league was established 25 years ago.
Among the defendants slapped with sentences of between one and five years was a FIFA-certified Thai referee.
The case stems from four Thai League matches played in 2017 by Si Sa Ket FC, Nakhon Ratchasima Mazda FC, and Rajchanavy FC, in which fans and media noticed unusually high scoring toward the end of the games.
Somyot Phumphanmuang, Thai Football Association president and former national police chief, vowed to bring everyone involved in throwing the matches to justice. Somyot called in Chakthip Chaijinda, his successor as national police chief, to investigate the case.
Over 30 police investigators began collecting evidence from the association and the clubs involved. On November 21, 2017 the association held a press conference to announce that at least 12 culprits had been identified in the match-fixing scandal. Another four suspects were added to the list after further investigation in 2018, but prosecutors decided to dismiss one suspect and file charges against 15.
Thailand passed the Professional Sports Promotion Act in 2013. The law stipulates that match-fixing in professional sports is punishable with up to 10 years in jail and/or a fine of between Bt200,000 and Bt600,000.
Before this case, there was no record of legal cases involving match-fixing in other sports besides boxing in Thailand.
All 15 defendants were granted bail and plan to lodge appeals against the verdict with a higher court. However, this case is still a landmark in Thai footballing history, with the Football Association taking action against match-fixing suspects aiming to restore fan’s confidence in the beautiful game.