LOCAL football has been plunged into controversy after bookmaking firms reveal they have experienced irregular betting patterns.
One company, Paddy Power, confirmed it was refusing to take bets on four top-flight games this weekend, and was only accepting wagers on the matches involving Linfield and Glentoran – the only two clubs capable of lifting the league title.
The alarm bells were raised yesterday morning after some eager punters started lumping on teams before the odds had even been released.
A spokesperson for Paddy Power said: "We have been told to pull the betting on all the Irish Premiership games, apart from the Linfield and Glentoran fixtures, because of some irregular betting patterns.
"We were alerted to one fixture in particular, but there have also been large wagers on a number of other games. It's a problem at this time of the season when a lot of teams have nothing to play for."
Another local betting firm, Toals, said they would continue to monitor the situation.
"The odds for one particular team were slashed in half in a matter of hours, so that alerted us.
"There was also significant betting on a number of other games," a spokesperson said.
"When you have betting like that on two or three games, then you have to be very careful. We still have our prices up on the boards, but that could all change if money continues to come in."
With only two fixtures remaining in this season's JJB Sports Premiership, only Linfield and Glentoran are capable of lifting the title.
"You always get this near the end of the season," the Toals spokesperson added.
"With two or three games left, most teams know they are either safe or have nothing to play for. That's when you get strange betting patterns. We accept quite a number of bets on Irish League football, so we stand to lose a lot as well."
Irish Football Association President Raymond Kennedy has threatened "extreme action" if any club or player was found guilty of match-fixing.
"We will work closely with the bookmakers on this matter, because betting of this kind has no place in football," he said.
"There have been investigations like this before, and I am very perturbed that it might be happening again.
"But anyone found guilty of match-fixing will be punished accordingly, and teams could face points deductions if they are involved as well."