Why Was Granit Xhaka Investigated by the National Crime Agency?

Granit Xhaka has always been a player that seems to be in some sort of trouble. Usually, this is with the club for disciplinary reasons, such as red cards, fights with teammates in training, provocative celebrations and the like. Xhaka used to be the captain of Arsenal until he was stripped of his captaincy in retaliation to fan abuse and shouts at him after he came off following a bad performance for the club.

Due to these various issues, many football fans see Xhaka as a bit of a hot head in football and to be investigated at such a level as the National Crime Agency, although very serious, doesn’t seem too out of the question for the Gunners star. But was he really investigated and what happened?

A Suspicious Bet on Xhaka

The initial investigation was opened due to a suspicious bet placed on a game during the 2021-22 season where a large sum of money was put on Xhaka being booked in the last 10 minutes of the match. He then duly picked up a yellow late in the game. The incident occurred on the 18th of December, 2021 during Arsenal’s 4-1 win over Leeds United. With the game basically finished at 4-1 in the 86th minute, Xhaka was booked for timewasting over the taking of a freekick causing the betting site to raise suspicions about the bet.

The FA opened the investigation after an unusually large amount of £52,000 was placed on the event taking place. With the pay-out being around the £250,000 mark, there was suspicion on whether the club captain at the time was aware of the bet and got the yellow card on purpose. The main reason for the investigation was due to such an abnormally large amount of money being bet on a yellow card – and, of course, the fact that it won.

Investigation Determined Xhaka Not Involved

Overall, the investigation took six months and the verdict at the end was that neither Xhaka nor any of his teammates had any involvement in the scandal. The investigation, which was started by the FA, was moved onto the National Crime Agency, where there has been no update on the case since. Whilst there are still suspicions about the incident, it is not thought to have anything do with Xhaka.

Betting scandals are not an uncommon occurrence in football and sport in general as it is theoretically an easy way for an athlete to make some extra money. All a player would need to do is predict that they will do something such as get a yellow or red card, score a goal or even an own goal, and then bet on that to happen, then do it during the game.

However, this is only in theory as it has been made illegal for players to bet on games for obvious reasons. This is why some players try and make fake betting accounts to try and not be caught, or more commonly tell friends and family about their intentions to help them get a healthy pay-out.

Examples of Players Influencing Bets

Ivan Toney
Ivan Toney (Ardfern | Wikipedia.org – CC BY 4.0)

Actually throwing a game is harder to arrange as the player would probably need help from several teammates or opponents. Even bets on events, such as scoring a goal, are hard to guarantee. However, spot-fixing is both easier to carry out and also perceived by players to be less of a moral issue. This is where bets are made on a relatively minor aspect of a game that does not affect the result, or certainly not in a major way. This might include collecting a yellow, conceding a throw in, or making sure a team gives away a certain number of corners.

Wayne Shaw Eating a Pie

It can even include rather strange eventualities, with bookies these days offering no end of markets. One of the most famous incidents of this is when the former Sutton goalkeeper, Wayne Shaw, saw there was a bet that offered 8/1 odds of him eating a pie against Arsenal in the FA Cup in 2017. When Shaw saw the market, he informed a group of his friends that he was going to eat a pie during the match to make the bet come true. Of course, a number of his associates put bets on the unusual market.

During the game, Shaw was pictured tucking into a pie which meant the large sums of money his friends put on had to be paid out. Some of these wagers saw the betting company having to pay out five-figure amounts. This caused the bookies and the FA to open an investigation into Shaw’s actions and whether they were intentional. After the investigation, Shaw was charged by the Football Association for intentionally influencing the football betting market and unlawful conduct.

Ivan Toney Betting Blunders

A more recent investigation that has taken place was in November 2022 where Brentford striker, Ivan Toney, was charged with 232 suspected breaches of betting rules. Another 30 were added to this total in December of 2022. Due to these allegations, Toney has had a bit of a black mark put against his name and many fans suspect the allegations were the reason for him being left out of the England squad for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Since the FA’s initial investigation, Toney has admitted to many of the charges and the case will be taken to the next level with Toney possibly facing a potential ban from football for a set term. However, the punishment is all determined by the Football Association’s verdict which has not yet been decided at the time of writing. Indeed, in March 2023 Gareth Southgate called the striker into his England squad for the first time, leaving many scratching their heads.

Kieran Trippier Transfer Tip

Before all of this, Toney’s England teammate, Kieran Trippier, received a 10-week ban from the FA for informing certain individuals of his transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Spanish side Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2019. As can be seen from this, punishments can be quite serious if a player is found to be betting on football or informing people of deals that are not yet out to the public.

Xhaka Reformed

Since the start of the 2022-23 season, Xhaka seems to have turned a new leaf in terms of getting in trouble with the club. He is now one of Mikel Arteta’s most trusted lieutenants and although he still gets the occasional yellow card, he has turned into one of Arsenal’s more experienced players and a leader amongst the squad.

Xhaka was never really regarded as much of a threat by rival fans and was somewhat of an average player for teams to face. However, since Arsenal have become serious title challengers this season, and Xhaka’s temper and attitude seem to have calmed down, he has become arguably one of the most reliable players in the Premier League. Arteta and all Gunners will certainly be hoping that he won’t be on the end of any more criminal investigations.