2014 Harimau Muda A players Photo: Supplied (Facebook)
One of the world's foremost authorities on football match fixing has warned the inclusion of a Malaysian side in the upcoming National Premier Leagues Queensland could expose the competition to the influence of Asian betting syndicates.
But Football Queensland has dismissed the possibility, saying it was a "long bow" to draw.
Harimau Muda A, the Malaysian under-22 side, will play for competition points in the 14-team NPL Queensland competition from next month.
However, the side will be ineligible to make the finals and will instead use the competition as preparation for Asian international competitions.
International match fixing expert Declan Hill, the author of The Fix and The Insider's Guide to Match Fixing, told Fairfax Media that situation left the NPL Queensland more open to corruption.
While not suggesting Harimau Muda A was involved in match fixing, Mr Hill said playing for points but being ineligible for finals football could further expose the NPL Queensland to the influence of Asian betting syndicates.
"If you have a team in your league, they should be able to win it, otherwise you've got to wonder what it is they're playing for," he said.
"You have these guys saying 'what does it matter?'. It should be a case of if they win it, then great, let them win it - everyone else can lift their games next season.
"I can't understand why a league administrator would have a team play on these terms."
The concerns were not without precedent.
When Harimau Muda A played in Singapore's S-League in 2012, then-Geylang United goalkeeper Yazid Yasin said he was approached to throw a game against them.
There is no suggestion the Football Association of Malaysia or the Harimau Muda A players have been involved in any such activity.
Football Queensland chief operations officer Ben Mannion, the head of NPL Queensland, said the suggestion the competition could be compromised was in "poor taste" and not fair on the Malaysians or the NPL.
"We've gone through the right channels with the (Football Federation of Australia), the (Asian Football Confederation) and also FIFA, who are across it, and we've got Sportradar that we work with at the FFA level, which is an internationally renowned agency to monitor sports betting and stop match fixing," he said.
"We write to those departments within 48 hours of every match, with all the official things that happened within the game, so that they can register any abnormal betting trends and report back to the FFA and back to us."
Queensland is no stranger to football match fixing. Last year, Brisbane Premier League club Albany Creek Excelsior was caught up in a match fixing scandal that saw 10 people arrested in Victoria.
"Obviously, with what happened in Melbourne previously, they're well and truly across what needs to happen to make sure that sort of thing doesn't happen again," Mr Mannion said.
Mr Hill said Australian football betting markets were more popular in Asia than the English Premier League, due to a similar time zone.
"I think these are absolutely bona fide concerns. If you had a blindfold on somebody and put a pin into a map, Malaysia and Singapore and number one and number two when it comes to match fixing," he said.
"By the time a player reaches 20 years of age, they've been exposed to this stuff."
Harimau Muda A's inclusion is expected to attract unprecedented interest from Malaysia.
Former Far North Queensland Heat NPL coach Joe Fenech, now director of coaching in central Queensland and involved in a bid for a Gladstone-based NPL side, said he could not discount the possibility of betting syndicates trying to influence NPL Queensland matches.
"The involvement of a Malaysian team is clearly going to generate interest in Malaysia, who would be following the NPL a lot closer because of that involvement and it goes without saying that people will have a flutter," he said.
Mr Fenech, who stressed he was speaking in his capacity as a supporter and not as a Football Queensland employee, said a "win-win" situation would have been to have a 13-team NPL Queensland with teams playing Harimau Muda A on bye weeks.
But Mr Mannion said the NPL clubs would play for points to ensure they fielded their strongest sides.
"If it was for no points, the clubs would rest their senior players and they would play under-18s and under-20s against the Malaysians, which is not what we're looking for," he said.
The NPL is a national second tier competition aimed to be a pathway to the A-League and features several ex-National Soccer League clubs, including former champions Brisbane Strikers, Sydney United and South Melbourne.