Australian Football League (AFL) Umpire Michael Pell and three of his associates have been arrested by Victoria Police after suspicious bets were placed on the Brownlow Medal votes, in more than 10 of the 16 home-and-away games Mr Pell umpired.
The AFL was first alerted to irregularities in the bets from PointsBet, who first informed the league that there could be an issue only data after the final Brownlow Medal count, which took place on 18 September.
According to The Age, the suspicious bets were placed on a round-by-round basis on 10 of the 16 games Pell umpired. These were spread across a number of different agencies and were reportedly worth upwards of thousands of dollars.
The bets were also only placed on players to win ‘three votes’ in games which Pell umpired.
The four men – who were arrested on Monday and have been interviewed, but not yet charged – face up to 10 years imprisonment, if found guilty. Michael Pell would also be banned from umpiring, likely for life, at any level.
They are expected to be charged on summons, with using information to corrupt a betting event, subjecting them to potential criminal charges.
Victoria Police released a statement that two 32-year-old men from Glenroy, a 29-year-old man from Oak Park and a 27-year-old man from Drouin are all the individuals involved.
Several electronic items and mobile phones were seized.
How Brownlow Medal voting works
The Brownlow Medal is the most prestigious award in the AFL and is awarded to league’s ‘best and fairest’ player; votes are cast after each game by three officiating umpires and awarded to three of the players.
The umpires can award three votes, two votes and one vote to the players they regard as the best, second best and third best in the match respectively.
This year the award was won by Carlton Football Club captain Patrick Cripps, which he won in a nail-biting finish.
How was the Umpire found out?
According to The Age’s report, betting companies would be alerted if people were to bet two or three times on a particular umpire’s game, let alone 10 times as in the current situation.
The companies have technology and algorithms that alert them of suspicious activity, particularly when the bettor stands to win a substantial sum of money.
The AFL was able to cross-check betting patterns across multiple sites, finding that the same individuals were placing bets and that Michael Pell was the constant factor.
The AFL maintains that there were no accounts of match fixing and that Mr Pell did not influence the final result of the Brownlow count.
This was only Mr Pell’s first season in the AFL senior league. The chances are he won’t be coming back for a second.