Melbourne Victory have been forced to remove a shirt sponsor for their Asian Champions League clash over fears of links to a foreign online betting agency.
Victory have a shirt deal, which was approved by the notoriously picky Asian Football Federation, with a Hong Kong company called Kaishi Entertainment.
Fans on the equally notoriously picky SokkahTwitter discovered a link between Kaishi and a Hong Kong-based betting agency called Kashbet.
While Kaishi insist that they're not involved with the betting agency, both platforms have identical logograms and feature the same promoters.
Kashbet are official betting partners of Ajax and Roma, and the "general manager of Kaishi Entertainment" who presented the new sponsored shirt to Victory yesterday also features in a near identical sponsored shirt presentation for Kashbet and Bayer Leverkusen.
The announcement of the deal was made by Trent Jacobs from a pedestal featuring Victory's logo under Kashbet's logo and slogan, with the slogan also appearing on the shirt fronts.
I’m probably wrong as I’m sure they wouldn’t have done this deal without checking but I thought Australian companies couldn’t advertise off-shore betting companies? Or does Kashbet now have a base in Australia too? https://t.co/9XRcXsBMcn— Kevin Airs (@KevinAirs) 4 March 2019
Fans on Twitter also discovered that Kaishi appears to be a shell company: their website features a stock image for their 'CEO', as well as virtually no working links to other work or projects.
The story hailing the new sponsorship deal was removed from Victory's website last night pending an investigation into the links between Kaishi and Kashbet.
In a statement, Victory insisted the club had performed a thorough background check on the organisation.
"Earlier today, Melbourne Victory announced a front-of-shirt sponsor for the AFC Champions League, Hong Kong media agency, Kaishi Entertainment," the statement read.
"While appropriate due diligence was undertaken prior to the announcement and the AFC approved Kaishi, since that time further information has come to light which raises concerns about Kaishi’s link to an online betting agency, which the club takes very seriously.
While Kaishi has represented (and continues to represent) to the Club that it is not linked in anyway with betting, given this new information, Melbourne Victory has made the decision to wear a clean strip this evening in their match against Daegu FC.
"We will then work with Kaishi to resolve any concerns we have ahead of our next AFC Champions League clash.
"It is important to note that Melbourne Victory has not and would not actively enter into an agreement with a company in the gambling industry. The club respects and adheres to AFC apparel requirements and the brand and integrity of our existing partners."
Take a 5 second look at the "Hong Kong based media agency" site https://t.co/fzkewifFrp -you'll see that it's a cheap splash page with little info. The 'chairman' Yang Changheng founded 'Kaishi' in 1999. 1) He's a stock image, 2) Kashbet also founded in 1999 pic.twitter.com/FeJDxTerRQ— Liam Clark (@liamgtclark39) 5 March 2019
Foreign gambling companies are banned from inciting anyone from using their online service under Australian law, with penalties reaching up to $1.8 million per day for companies who breach the legislation.