The J.League said Tuesday it found no evidence of match-fixing in the March 8 game between Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Kawasaki Frontale after receiving an alert about the match from FIFA.
While all relevant parties have been cleared, it was Japanese soccer’s first suspected case of match-fixing and another headache for the league following Urawa Reds’ racist banner issue this past week.
The J.League said that FIFA’s Early Warning System, which monitors betting worldwide with the help of more than 450 bookmakers, notified it on March 10 that it had detected “an aberration” in wagers placed on the Hiroshima-Kawasaki tie at Edion Stadium.
Sanfrecce came from behind to win 2-1 in the 95th minute through a free kick by Tsukasa Shiotani.
At the same time he was dealing with Urawa, J.League chairman Mitsuru Murai led an emergency hearing of 25 people from each team who may have been in some position to influence the outcome of the match.
The investigation, which ended Monday, uncovered no evidence of foul play. EWS also contacted the league that evening, drawing the conclusion that the 10-fold spike in money bet on the Hiroshima game was triggered by rumors that the fix was in.
One of the rumors had Kawasaki coach Yahiro Kazama lending a hand to Hiroshima, a former club of his as a player.
“Everyone who was involved was interviewed in the presence of legal experts who were very prepared,” Murai said. “They were asked not just about themselves but if they had seen or heard anything suspicious.”
“Our technical and referee committees analyzed the game by film and found nothing unusual. We even drew a second opinion from overseas. EWS, which rang the alarm, also concluded that a fix was unlikely.”
“In the end, I personally made the call. I decided that we did not have a problem on our hands.”
Murai said the league never contacted the police because it did not find any evidence of match-fixing.
“When I took over as chairman on Jan. 31, I talked about committing to the three types of fair play — fair play on the pitch, financial play and social fair play,” he said.
“This matter, along with the Urawa problem, has made me realize how prevalent the J.League is in our society.”
Also on Tuesday, the league announced it will host this year’s Nabisco Cup final at Saitama Stadium on Nov. 8. The league cup final had traditionally been held at National Stadium, which is set to undergo an overhaul from July for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.