Star footballer arrested over betting probe

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Michael Fitzgerald said the game’s integrity had been damaged. Picture: NewsWire / Nikki Short

Officials from A-League club Macarthur FC reacted with shock after a trio of players including Mexican star and club captain Ulises Davila were arrested for alleged betting corruption after a NSW Police investigation.

Davila and teammates Clayton Lewis and Kearyn Baccus, the brother of Socceroos star Keanu, were arrested after the NSW Organised Crime Squad-led investigation.

Police say one of the three players was allegedly taking instructions from a man – believed to be offshore in South America – to organise for yellow cards to occur during certain games in exchange for profit.

The men aged 27, 32 and 33 were charged on Friday afternoon after 6am raids at houses in South Coogee, Parramatta, West Hoxton, and Emu Plains were carried out on Friday morning.

A-League Men Rd 12 - Macarthur FC v Western United
Ulises Alejandro Davila Plascencia of Macarthur FC is one of three players arrested, with police expected to lay charges later on Friday. Picture: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mike Fitzgerald alleged up to $10,000 had been paid to convince players to earn yellow cards in matches across the A-League season.

Police will allege there were “multiple thousands of dollars paid out” as a result of the bets.

No other clubs were involved in the investigation, but a fourth person is also being sought for questioning.

24 November 2023
Macarthur 1 Melbourne Victory 1
5 Yellow cards

Yellow card: Ulises Davila (Macarthur) 43rd minute

9 December 2023
Macarthur 2 Sydney FC 0
5 Yellow cards

Yellow card: Ulises Davila (Macarthur) 31st minute, Clayton Lewis (Macarthur) 53rd minute, Kearyn Baccus (Macarthur) 72nd minute 

20 April 2024
Macarthur 1 Sydney FC 0
3 Yellow cards

Yellow card: Kearyn Baccus (Macarthur) 41st minute

4 May 2024
Sydney FC 4 Macarthur 0
2 Yellow cards


“It’s extremely unfortunate that the (alleged) actions of only several people have severely damaged the integrity of a game that so many people around the world love and so many people are passionate about,” Mr Fitzgerald said at a press conference on Friday.

“They’ve brought down the integrity of not only themselves and the club that they played for but unfortunately the sport.”

It is alleged the players did, or attempted to, influence the issuing of yellow cards in four matches. Picture: NSW Police
It is alleged the players did, or attempted to, influence the issuing of yellow cards in four matches. Picture: NSW Police
A-League Men Rd 26 - Wellington Phoenix v Macarthur FC
Clayton Lewis of Macarthur FC. Picture: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Former Socceroo, human rights activist and sports analyst Craig Foster called news of the arrests shocking.

“Shocking news in domestic football today,” Foster posted on X.

“Raises further questions about the link between gambling and sport. Gambling companies owning clubs, sponsorship and advertising.”

Sonny Bill Williams and Craig Foster
Former Socceroo Craig Foster has sparked discussion of the links between sport and gambling. Picture: NewsWire / Gary Ramage

Davila, 33, who once played with English Premier League giants Chelsea, won the A-League’s highest honour, the Johnny Warren Medal, in 2021 and recently signed a contract extension with Macarthur until the end of the 2025-26 season.

But he was a shock omission from the A-League All-Stars team named to take on EPL giants Newcastle United in Melbourne next week before news of his arrest emerged.

Macarthur FC released a statement addressing the arrests.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 04: Kearyn Baccus of the Bulls after Sydney FC scored a goal during the A-League Men Elimination Final match between Sydney FC and Macarthur FC at Allianz Stadium, on May 04, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jeremy Ng/Getty Images)
Kearyn Baccus has been charged. Picture: Jeremy Ng/Getty Images

“For obvious reasons and given the ongoing police investigation, the club is not in position to add anything,” the statement said.

“The club is shocked and aware of the arrests of three A-League players by NSW Police as a result of international law enforcement co-ordination focused on betting corruption related to alleged yellow card manipulation in games.

“Integrity of our game is a foundation pillar and we will work closely with all relevant agencies on this matter.

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Michael Fitzgerald said athletes engaged in illegal betting activity risked irreparable damage to their careers, their club, and their livelihoods. Picture: NewsWire / Damian Shaw

“The club will make further comment if and when is required.”

The arrests were made as part of an investigation into alleged betting corruption under Strike Force Beaconview.

The police strike force was set up in December 2023, assisted by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission, to investigate alleged yellow card manipulation by players attached to a southwestern Sydney football club.

Lewis and Baccus are expected to be charged with engage in conduct that corrupts a betting outcome of an event.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 05: Official soccer balls are seen before the A-League Men round 11 match between Macarthur FC and Newcastle Jets at Campbelltown Stadium on January 05, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt Blyth/Getty Images)
News of the alleged criminal wrongdoing has come right in the middle of the A League’s finals series. Picture: Matt Blyth/Getty Images

Davila is likely to face two charges of facilitates conduct that corrupts a betting outcome of an event.

The number of yellow cards were allegedly manipulated during games played on Friday November 24, 2023 and Saturday, December 9, 2023.

Failed attempts were then allegedly made to control the number of yellow cards during games on Saturday, April 20, 2024 and Saturday, May 4, 2024.

A Football Australia spokesperson said the players were expected in court on Friday afternoon.

“Football Australia is fully co-operating with the Organised Crime Squad, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Sport Integrity Australia and the NSW Crime Commission in this matter,” the spokesperson said.

Brighton & Hove Albion v Chelsea FC - Premier League
The alleged offending relates to yellow cards in four fixtures this season. Picture: Justin Setterfield / Getty Images

“Football Australia will provide no further comments at this stage as the investigation is ongoing.”

A-League governing body, the Australian Professional Leagues, said the integrity of the game must be protected.

“The work to protect the integrity of our game must be unwavering and we are liaising closely with all relevant agencies on this matter. Given the ongoing nature of the investigation and police inquiries we are unable to comment further at this time,” the APL said in a statement.

A-League Semi Final Leg 1 - Sydney FC v Central Coast Mariners
Fifteen yellow cards were given out in the games police have alleged the players did, or attempted to, influence. Picture: Cameron Spencer / Getty Images

Speaking at the police press conference, Mr Fitzgerald called on athletes to not engage in illegal betting activity, or risk irreparable damage to their careers, the club, and their livelihoods.

“These arrests should be a clear warning to young people and young sports people are either engaging or considering becoming engaged in corruption within the sport,” he said.

“The consequences that will arise from them being identified in these criminal acts can potentially destroy their careers and their reputation for life.”

Second-leg matches of the A-League semi-finals are happening on Saturday; Macarthur FC did not make it to this late stage in the competition.