Investigated for soccer betting scandal, Brazil’s Lucas Paquetá still tipped to play in Copa América

By June 8, 2024

São Paulo, Brazil – Brazilian soccer star Lucas Paquetá, a midfielder for the English Premier League’s West Ham United and Brazil’s national team, is being investigated for alleged involvement in a betting scandal. So far, the investigation hasn’t hampered his chances of playing in this month’s Copa América.

In late May, England’s soccer governing body, the Football Association (FA), formally charged Paquetá and is reportedly pushing to ban him for life from the sport.

The body alleges that Paquetá intentionally received four yellow cards in different games to influence the betting market, benefiting one or more individuals.

The suspicious yellow cards were handed out in the following matches:

  1. West Ham 0-2 Leicester: yellow card in the 60th minute (November 2022)
  2. West Ham 1-1 Aston Villa: yellow card in the 70th minute (March 2023)
  3. West Ham 3-1 Leeds United: yellow card in the 65th minute (May 2023)
  4. Bournemouth 1-1 West Ham: yellow card in the 93rd minute (August 2023)

The FA set a deadline of June 3 for Paquetá to present his defense, but the player requested an extension, with the independent committee overseeing the case yet to set a new date.

Interestingly, the alleged scheme was uncovered by Betway, West Ham’s current sponsor. An unusual number of bets placed on Paquetá to receive yellow cards raised red flags at the Maltese online betting company.

Analyzing the bets, Betway followed the trail to Paquetá Island, a section of Rio de Janeiro where the midfielder was born and where many of his friends and family still reside.

Officials suspect that Paquetá tipped off his friends that he would deliberately try to get booked with a yellow card in certain matches, and recommended they place bets on it.

Betway reported that about 60 people placed bets ranging from £7 ($9) to £400 ($511), resulting in combined profits of approximately £100,000 ($128,000) over the period that’s being investigated.

Concerning Precedent

A similar case occurred in November 2021 during an FA Cup match. Stratford Town’s left-back Kynan Isaac intentionally received a yellow card in a game against Shrewsbury Town. Bookmaker SkyBet handed over data to the FA indicating that 14 bets had been placed on Isaac receiving a yellow card in that game, which in fact happened. Isaac was found guilty of manipulating a betting scheme with friends and received a 10-year ban from the sport.

If found guilty, Paquetá could face anywhere from a six-month to a lifetime ban from soccer. If convicted the Brazilian will have the chance to appeal all the way up to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Despite the serious charges and advanced stage of the investigation, which began in August 2023, Paquetá continued to play for West Ham until the end of the English Premier League season. He even featured in the team’s last match, a 3-1 away defeat of Manchester City on May 19.

The scandal was the main reason why Manchester City abandoned their plans to sign the 26-year-old Brazilian, who was a target at the request of coach Pep Guardiola.

Paquetá to play in June Copa América, for now

The formal charge from the FA was not enough for the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) to suspend Paquetá’s call-up to play in the Copa América, which starts in the United States on June 20. In a statement issued on May 30, the CBF said it contacted the FA, which confirmed there was no provisional suspension order against the player.

“Based on information provided by the FA, it is concluded categorically that Lucas Paquetá, despite the conduct he is accused of, has not been subject to any provisional suspension by the prosecuting and sanctioning entity. Therefore, the player is currently cleared to practice his profession,” the CBF statement read.

Paquetá addressed the matter at a press conference on May 31 in Orlando, where the Brazilian team is completing its final preparations for the tournament.

Lucas Paquetá during a press conference
(Rafael Ribeiro/CBF)

“I have been advised by my lawyers not to comment on the case. What I can say is that I am doing everything possible, cooperating. My lawyers are preparing my defense to ensure everything is clarified in the end. I want to make it clear that I remain prepared for this moment,” Paquetá said.

Lucas Paquetá began his professional career in 2017 with Flamengo in Rio de Janeiro. Talented, he caught the eye of big teams in European soccer for his technical ability and excellent finishing skills.

In October 2018, Flamengo sold him to Milan for €35 million ($38 million). After struggling in Italy, he moved to French side Olympique Lyonnais in 2020 for €18 million ($19.5 million). In France, Paquetá rediscovered his form and was subsequently sold to West Ham United for €61 million ($66 million).

In the Copa América, Paquetá is expected to be one of Brazil’s key players alongside Vini Júnior, as the team will be without star player Neymar, who is recovering from an injury.

Lucas Paquetá in a match for the Brazilian national team
(Lucas Figueiredo/CBF)