West Ham: Lucas Paqueta could be hit with life ban if found guilty of betting breaches

West Ham: Lucas Paqueta could be hit with life ban if found guilty of betting breaches

Lucas Paqueta risks missing the prime years of his career if found guilty of some of the most severe betting breaches in Premier League history.

The West Ham midfielder was on Thursday charged by the FA over spot-fixing allegations, following a nine-month investigation that has hung over the Brazilian throughout the season.

The midfielder is accused of deliberately picking up yellow cards in four separate league games as part of a gambling scheme, after suspicious betting patterns were traced back to his native Paqueta Island. The matches in question came against Leicester, Aston Villa and Leeds during the 2022-23 campaign and at Bournemouth early on in the season just ended.

Paqueta has denied all charges and is expected to lodge an appeal, though he may yet ask for an extension to the FA's deadline of June 3 to do so. That would prompt a hearing in front of a disciplinary commission where, if the charges were to be upheld, the 26-year-old would likely be hit with a lengthy ban that could stretch to years.

Lucas Paqueta being booked against Bournemouth last August (Getty Images)
Lucas Paqueta being booked against Bournemouth last August (Getty Images)

Paqueta saw a proposed move to Manchester City collapse when news of the investigation emerged last August, and the charges look to have put pay to any chance of that switch being revived this summer, when an £85million release clause is due to become active.

"I am extremely surprised and upset that the FA have decided to charge me," Paqueta said in a statement. "For nine months, I have co-operated with every step of their investigation and provided all the information I can. I deny the charges in their entirety and will fight with every breath to clear my name."

There is little recent precedent for spot-fixing offences at the top level, and the FA's sanction guidelines offer a broad scale for punishment, ranging anywhere from a six-month suspension to a lifetime ban.

However, while the cases are not directly comparable, in 2018, Lincoln's Bradley Wood was hit with a six-year ban after picking up two deliberate yellow cards in FA Cup ties. In 2022, ex-Reading defender Kynan Isaac had his career effectively ended by a 12-year ban for betting offences that included spot-fixing while in action for non-League Stratford Town.

Senior figures at West Ham are said to be furious with the FA's timing of the charges

Fifa have the power to extend such bans to prevent players escaping punishment via transfers or loans. Newcastle's Sandro Tonali is currently serving a 10-month betting ban initially sanctioned by the Italian FA and later enforced worldwide by the game's global governing body.

West Ham have reiterated their support for their club-record signing, who joined from Lyon in a £50m move two summers ago. News of the charges came on the same day the Hammers unveiled Julen Lopetegui as their new head coach, and senior figures at the club are said to be furious with the FA's timing. The club was informed of the charges only around 90 minutes before the FA's public announcement.

An FA statement said: "It is alleged that [Paqueta] directly sought to influence the progress, conduct, or any other aspect of, or occurrence in these matches by intentionally seeking to receive a card from the referee for the improper purpose of affecting the betting market in order for one or more persons to profit from betting."

Paqueta has been hit with two further charges relating to a failure to "provide documents, information or any other material held in relation to a request by the FA".