Coach admits to tipping gamblers

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A burgeoning scandal involving match-fixing and gambling within Norwegian football took a new turn over the weekend, when the coach for one of the clubs involved admitted to profiting from tips to gamblers earlier in his career. Hans-Erik Eriksen, who led the lower-division club Follo to Norway’s Cup Final just two years ago, said he’s now ashamed of what he did.

Follo coach Hans-Erik Eriksen (left), being interviewed by Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) when he led Follo to Norway's Cup Final in 2010. Now the club is caught up in a major football match-fixing scandal and Eriksen has admitted to earlier misdeeds himself. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/Views and News

Eriksen, however, stressed that his earlier involvement with gamblers has nothing to do with the current charges of match-fixing that involve some of his own players. In an interview with local newspaper Østlandets Blad, Eriksen attributed his earlier misdeeds to “excitement” and a chance to earn some extra money.

Eriksen was called in for questioning by police on Friday, in connection with the arrests of three Follo players charged with recent match-fixing. On Saturday, after consulting with leaders of the Follo club, he went back to the police with more information from his own experience with gamblers between 2000 and 2005.

“I was younger and considerably more stupid than I am now,” Eriksen, age 34, told Østlands Blad. “I involved myself in something that at the time may have seemed exciting, and a quick way of getting some extra money.”

Denies any match-fixing
While playing for Follo and coaching a club on Nesodden, Eriksen confirmed that he provided tips to a football gambler on everything from injuries among players to suspensions. The gambler then bet large sums on matches involving the teams, and allegedly paid Eriksen.

“I never talked with other clubs’ players or Follo players about whether they could fix the matches,” Eriksen said. “It was, though, communicated to the gambler that (I had) … a pure lie, there were never any other players involved in this.”

Eriksen said he pocketed as much as NOK 10,000-20,000 per match on around five matches during the five-year period, but was motivated more by what he called the “excitement of risk-taking” than the money. “I swindled one gambler, who wanted to fix a match, and enriched myself,” he said. “I’m ashamed of that, and it’s hard to admit that I had such grave lapse in judgment. It’s been like a dark cloud following me.”

‘Serious’
Eriksen’s admissions are the latest blow to both football administrators and Follo chairman Ole Bjørn Fausa, who held another press conference on Saturday about the police questioning of Eriksen. On Saturday night, Østlandets Blad published its interview with Eriksen, done the same day.

“He’s said clearly that he wasn’t involved in match-fixing, but that he had contact with this (gambling) milieu,” said Fausa. “He had information that could send police in the right direction.”

Police continue to investigate cases of match-fixing in Norwegian football and more arrests may loom, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Sunday night. A prosecutor called Eriksen’s admissions “serious” but noted that Eriksen hadn’t requested police protection for fear of any reprisal from the gamblers.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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