Two matches in the first round of UEFA Europa Conference League qualifying have been flagged to European football’s governing body because of suspicious betting patterns.

One was Armenian side Alashkert’s second-leg 6-1 win over Arsenal Tivat of Montenegro which put them through 7-2 on aggregate. The other was Latvian team RFS’s 4-1 win over Makedonija GP from North Macedonia, another second-leg tie, which put them through 5-1 on aggregate.

Suspicious betting patterns are of concern as they can be indicative of match-fixing or manipulation, misuse of insider information, or other wrongdoing. Such wrongdoing may be carried out by one team, or one or more individual players on one team, or the match officials. There is no suggestion that everyone involved in the game would be complicit.

“In line with its long-standing practice, UEFA refrains from commenting on investigations or even the existence of potential investigations into alleged match-fixing so as not to compromise investigation processes,” the organisation said in a statement. “With regards to anti-match-fixing activities at national level, UEFA provides a wide range of expertise to its national associations and, in particular, to its network of Integrity Officers appointed in each national association.”

The two games were both played on July 20. Alashkert and RFS, the two winning teams, were eliminated in the next round so none of the four teams will participate in the group stage of the Conference League, established by UEFA in 2021 to run alongside the Champions League and Europa League.

“Our club always sets only the highest standards on the pitch and also outside the pitch. Integrity principles are the essence of football,” said a spokesperson for Latvian side RFS. “We always prove everything on the field. The two matches against Makedonija, which we won and went to the next round, were no exception from our side. This is all we can comment.”

The other three clubs — Alashkert, Arsenal Tivat and Makedonija GP — did not respond to a request for comment.

The UEFA Europa Conference League was won by West Ham United last season (Photo: VLASTIMIL VACEK/AFP via Getty Images)

The Conference League primarily involves participants from UEFA’s lower-ranked members and was won by Roma and West Ham United in its first two seasons.

Although the competition has been praised for spreading the glamour and prize money of UEFA competition to countries which do not normally benefit from it, experts have warned that it carries a high risk of match-fixing.

“There is a big mix of countries and less well-known teams,” explains Chris Rasmussen, Lecturer in Sports Betting Integrity at the University of New Haven. “It’s hard for the bookmaker to set the correct odds.”

The teams involved in qualifying are playing far higher-profile games than usual on which large amounts of money are staked, with these matches falling in the middle of summer when there was virtually no other competitive men’s football being played.

Betting patterns on “exchanges” can be tracked through publicly available resources, which show how people around the world are betting on specific outcomes and thereby moving the odds.

Rasmussen says the two games in question have clearly suspicious betting patterns.

This was quickly spotted by many insiders and experts in the world of sports integrity, prompting the matches to be flagged to UEFA.

(Photo: Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images)