Month: January 2019

Single-minded Aragones brought Spain success

The much-travelled Aragones, who died on Saturday aged 75, was a popular choice when he became the oldest Spain coach in 2004 after the team failed to get past the group stage at that year’s European Championship.

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Aragones had previously turned down the job on several occasions but this time he took on the role armed with a wealth of knowledge gained over almost 50 years in the business.

He was most closely associated with Atletico Madrid as both a player and coach. An attacking midfielder he was renowned for his piercing free-kicks, a technique he honed on the training ground.

During the 1960s and early 1970s he helped Atletico to three league titles and hit 125 goals, including a free-kick in the 1974 European Cup final which they lost to Bayern Munich.

Less than a year later he hung up his playing boots to become coach of Atletico and it was the start of a journeyman career typified by highs and lows and constant rifts.

He was often portrayed as a coach who was difficult to deal with but more accurately he was not afraid to speak his mind and cared little about how people viewed him.

It was during the 1980s that Aragones’ highly strung personality coupled with his dogged work ethic got the better of him and he left Real Betis, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona with stress-related issues.

After taking charge of Spain in 2004, success was initially hard to come by and Aragones was roundly criticised following the team’s last 16 exit at 2006 World Cup.

Many felt his views were out of date and that he lacked the character to be national coach. He was also widely condemned for making racist comments about Thierry Henry to Jose Antonio Reyes during a Spain training session in 2004.

Aragones, who considered resigning in 2006, decided that the only way to take the team forward was to get rid of old guard players such as Raul and Michel Salgado and introduce the quick-passing football that was bringing success at Barcelona.

The lowest point came when they were beaten 3-2 by Northern Ireland at Windsor Park in a Euro 2008 qualifier but they learned from that setback to finish on top of their qualifying group.

There was the usual mood of pessimism among the Spanish public Euro 2008 kicked off but once the competition started, Aragones plotted their route to the final where Fernando Torres scored the only goal against Germany.

Aragones decided to stand down after the tournament but his tactics and the way he restored belief among the players led Spain to further triumphs at the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Pakistan batsman Umar held over alleged assault

The case has been registered at the Gulberg police station in whose jurisdiction the alleged incident happened on Saturday.

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“He violated a traffic signal and when he was stopped by the traffic warden he misbehaved with him, got abusive and also tore his shirt,” senior police official Tariq Aziz told reporters on Saturday.

Aziz said physically assaulting and tearing the shirt of a police officer was a serious violation.

“He is presently detained at the police station for questioning,” he added.

However, Umar, 23, denied the charges and told reporters that the traffic warden had slapped him and abused him over a minor issue.

“His behaviour was inappropriate to say the least. I came to the police station to register a complaint and instead they have detained me,” he added.

Umar, who has appeared in 16 tests, 89 one day internationals and 52 Twenty 20 matches, is regarded as one of the most exciting young talents in Pakistan cricket.

The younger brother of test players Kamran and Adnan Akmal, Umar claimed the incident was captured on CCTV cameras at the traffic signal and the footage will make it clear who was the aggrieved and guilty parties.

Umar’s family also blamed the police for stopping him from applying for bail on Saturday as the court had closed for the day by the time he was taken there for the hearing.

“The police on purpose delayed taking him to the magistrate so we couldn’t get bail for him now he might have to spend the night in lockup,” his father Muhammad Akmal said.

Muhammad said the three charges registered against his son carried jail sentences of three months to two years and a fine.

(Editing by Patrick Johnston and Pritha Sarkar)

Gallacher equals tour record to overhaul McIlroy

Gallacher, 39, blitzed his way to a nine-under-par 63 – the joint lowest round of this year’s event – to finish with a 16-under total of 200, two clear of world number six McIlroy having started the day four adrift.

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World number one Tiger Woods again failed to sparkle, returning a 70 to end up 11 shots off the pace.

After picking up four strokes on the front nine of his opening round, the 14-times major winner has made just six birdies in 45 holes.

“I wasted a lot of opportunities out there today,” a frustrated Woods told reporters.

“I only hit a couple of bad shots and missed a ton of putts. I really hit it good and just threw away a lot of shots.”

At the other end of the spectrum, Gallacher gobbled up most of his chances.

“It was a bit of a struggle to start with especially the first three holes,” the Scot said.

“I never found the fairway. Then I hit it stiff at nine and from then on I kept hitting it close and if I hit it to 30 feet I holed it.

“I found last year it’s easier when you’re leading rather than chasing so I tried to get as many birdies as I could. I didn’t want to count them up,” said Gallacher whose Dubai win 12 months ago was his first title in nearly a decade.

His remarkable nine-under effort of 28 was the equal lowest back-nine score on tour in relation to par.

McIlroy birdied the 17th to add some lustre to another frustrating round for the twice major winner who returned a 69 after finding only four fairways and missing a series of middle-distance putts.

GOOD PUTTS

Playing partner Brooks Koepka (70) of the United States and Dane Thorbjorn Olesen (65) shared third spot on 204.

“I didn’t drive the ball particularly well. I’m probably going to work on a few things on the range and I also felt like I hit a lot of good putts and they just didn’t go in,” said Northern Irishman McIlroy.

“I got off to another shaky start…the conditions were tricky out there, it was breezy. It was tough to get close to some of these pins.”

McIlroy, 24, was erratic.

He landed a 220-yard six-iron within a few feet of the pin for an eagle at the third that left him grinning gleefully but there was little more to smile about for a player who seemed as though he might run away with the tournament after shooting a 63 in Thursday’s first round.

Gallacher’s imperious form means McIlroy may have to wait a little longer to end a 14-month title drought on the tour.

“I need to go out there, hit a few more fairways and focus on a few things in my game, not focus on what he is doing,” said McIlroy who went close to claiming the $2.5 million prize for a hole-in-one at the par-four 17th.

His tee shot just missed the cup as fiancee Caroline Wozniacki looked on.

“You can’t really see the pin,” added McIlroy. “I saw the pitch mark and it must have just run past the hole – it could have paid for my wedding.”

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

Carroll controversially sent off as West Ham thump Swansea

Carroll and Chico tangled in an aerial challenge in the 59th minute at the Boleyn Ground.

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Upon landing, Carroll caught the Swansea defender across the head with his arm.

The contact was minimal but an exaggerated reaction from Chico prompted referee Howard Webb to show a straight red card.

“I don’t think you can say it’s ridiculous. It’s the reaction of player that makes life extremely difficult for the referee. He was squealing and centre halves are not supposed to squeal,” West Ham manger Sam Allardyce told reporters.

“It’s harsh but I understand why it was given because the referee must have thought his arm smashed him in the face. But fortunately it has not cost us anything.”

In their meeting earlier in the season at the Liberty Stadium, Chico rolled around dramatically in a similar manner following a tackle with Carlton Cole, an incident that drew a reaction from Allardyce that day too.

West Ham confirmed they plan to appeal the decision.

“Andy is gutted, he’s beside himself but we’ve just got to go through the appeal process and see what happens,” Allardyce said.

Swansea boss Michael Laudrup echoed his counterpart’s sentiments regarding the dismissal.

JUDGE PLAYERS

“I thought it was harsh. There are challenges like that every game. For me there’s contact but the referee is a very good international and he must’ve seen the elbow and decided it was on purpose,” Laudrup said.

“Maybe (Chico) did make too much of it. I’m not sure if he wanted him sent off, I would have to talk to him. I’m not going to judge players.”

Until the red card, Carroll had been a handful and was instrumental in both goals.

He teed up captain Kevin Nolan to rifle home midway through the first half before the same two players combined in much the same fashion with Nolan again finishing from a Carroll header in the shadows of halftime.

“He has the ability to hold ball and the aerial problems he causes is his major strength. Today he made two for Kevin and next week we need him to make another two and get one himself,” Allardyce said.

“We’ve had 11 clean sheets so that’s the basis of a solid team and that gives us the platform to win more football games.”

The win failed to lift the Hammers out of the relegation zone after other results went against them.

Swansea have won just one of their previous 10 league matches and are 12th with 24 points. With just six points separating the bottom 10 teams, Laudrup refused to get drawn into suggestions that Swansea are already embroiled in a relegation battle.

“There are about 11 teams (who could be involved in a relegation battle) so we’ll see what happens over the next four or five games. We cannot go up or down because of one result,” he said.

“There will be changes from matchday to matchday.”

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Wales hold off dogged Italy in Six Nations opener

First-half tries by Alex Cuthbert and Scott Williams gave the hosts a handy 17-3 lead at the break.

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Michele Campagnaro, 20, lifted Italy’s hopes of snapping a 15-match away losing streak in the championship with two tries to make the deficit five points with 10 minutes remaining.

Leigh Halfpenny’s third penalty then gave Wales some breathing space as they made sure there was no repeat of the opening-day defeat by Ireland in 2013.

Wales, looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Six Nations titles outright, will be satisfied with the victory but will want an improved effort in the scrum as they eye tougher challenges in the coming weeks.

“I thought we were positive in terms of our attacking play but Italy were dogged and competed pretty hard all game,” Wales coach Warren Gatland told the BBC.

“Defensively I thought our structure was pretty good. Italy made it tough for us.

“I think in the past when we have come under pressure like that we might not have had the composure to finish it off but we did today. We’re champions and every team is going to come at us and make it tough.”

A long injury list meant Italy coach Jacques Brunel had to name an inexperienced backline, a move that initially backfired as an error by debutant Angelo Esposito allowed Cuthbert a simple try after four minutes.

The Treviso winger failed to gather Rhys Priestland’s kick, leaving Cuthbert to collect the ball and collapse gratefully over the line.

After Halfpenny nailed his conversion from the sideline the home team went close to scoring again but Italy’s other wing Leonardo Sarto was alert to the danger, booting away George North’s well-weighted kick under pressure from four Welsh chasers.

RESOLUTE DEFENCE

Italy recovered from the early setback, despite a lack of possession, on the back of resolute defending and the ability to slow the ball down.

The visitors registered their first points through the boot of former Scotland Under-20 player Tommaso Allan after Dan Lydiate was penalised at a ruck.

Italy also troubled Wales in the scrum but a mounting penalty count began to hurt them, allowing Halfpenny to add another three points after captain Sergio Parisse pushed an opponent in a lineout.

The Italians started to test the Welsh defence, Parisse having a try ruled out for a knock-on, but were left to rue their failure to take advantage when Jamie Roberts burst through the defence to send Williams clear.

The visitors got the try their efforts deserved immediately after the restart when Priestland lost the ball in a heavy tackle.

Sarto on the wing kicked ahead and centre Campagnaro put foot to ball again before regathering and diving over the line.

The try was awarded by the television match official despite suggestions of an earlier forward pass.

Neither side was able to take complete control and the match looked to be meandering to its conclusion when Campagnaro doubled his tally with 12 minutes left, intercepting a poor Halfpenny pass to race 60 metres to score.

Wales, boosted by Sam Warburton’s return as a replacement after a two-month injury layoff, eased their nerves through the boot of Halfpenny to ensure Gatland’s side got their campaign off to a winning, if not completely convincing start.

France host England in Paris later on Saturday while Ireland and Scotland clash in Dublin on Sunday.

(Reporting by Josh Reich; editing by Tony Jimenez)

Champion Ogier set for Monte Carlo Rally

Sebastien Ogier says he is well prepared and relaxed as he begins his title defence this weekend in Monte Carlo where Korean constructor Hyundai enter the world rally championship (WRC) fray.

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The fabled Monte Carlo Rally is the oldest in the world.

First captured by French pioneering aviator Henri Rougier in 1911, it might have lost some of its lustre over the decades, but it still holds a special place in the hearts of rally enthusiasts.

From Paddy Hopkirk’s win at the wheel of the iconic Mini Cooper S half a century ago, Monte Carlo’s fortunes dipped to such an extent it disappeared from the WRC calendar in 2009, returning in 2012 when it was won by Sebastien Loeb.

Ogier is favourite to kick off 2014 on a winning note.

“Testing and preparations have been running at full throttle since November and we are well prepared to start the new season as defending champions.

“I’m not incapable of making a mistake, but I’m more relaxed than last year because I know that I have a winning car whereas, in 2013, the Polo-R was making its competitive debut.

“I’m approaching the Monte Carlo rally with lots of respect and humility despite all the confidence generated from last season. It’s always held in very tough conditions.”

Volkswagen, Ford and Citroen have a new rival in Hyundai, with rising star Thierry Neuville and experienced Dani Sordi their drivers.

Neuville, second in last season’s championship, spelled out the team’s ambitions for Monte Carlo.

“Our aim is to finish the event and get some good experience and mileage to further develop our car.”

Hyundai team chief Michel Nando added: “We have two very good drivers who have given the whole team a big boost.

“We all know that Thierry can achieve outstanding performance levels despite his young age, while Dani has a lot of experience in the WRC and at Rallye Monte-Carlo. We have a very good mix.”

Ogier’s birthplace of Gap provides the backdrop for the first two days competition, before an overnight stop in Monaco and two runs over the legendary Col de Turini on Saturday’s third and final day.

Ogier is bracing himself for a tough championship defence: “Our main goal is obviously to defend the title. It is never easy to win a title, but successfully defending it is even more difficult.”

Ogilvy seeks major redemption

After missing his first Masters in eight years and having to watch good friend Adam Scott break the Augusta hoodoo from his couch, 2006 US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy is determined to claw his way back to Magnolia Lane.

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Ogilvy was a poster child for bad luck around Masters invites in 2013, missing at 2012 year-end by one world ranking spot and then again falling outside the mark the week before the tournament with an untimely missed cut.

He’s not out for a repeat dose in 2014.

“Obviously I am targeting the Masters. As it stands, the only major I am in is the US Open and the goal is to get back into all of them, starting with Augusta,” Ogilvy said from Palm Springs where he will continue his quest in the Humana Challenge, his first 2014 start.

“Ever since I knew I wasn’t getting in (the Masters) last year, I have been pretty determined and hell bent on never missing it again. It definitely gets me going on the range and putting green, that’s for sure.

“It would have been really cool to be there as it was a pretty cool Masters for Australia and it was a little bit more sad to miss it given the result.”

To make it back, the 36-year-old will need some big results over the first few months of the year having fallen to 131st in the world, his lowest mark since early 2003.

A win automatically brings a Masters invite while his only other window is to be inside the world top 50 by the week before the April 10-13 tournament.

Ogilvy is confident of a move given tracks like TPC Scottsdale, Torrey Pines and Riviera coming up on the schedule. He lives near Scottsdale, used to live by Torrey and reveres the design of Riviera.

The Victorian worked his tail off to get to Augusta last year, playing 10 of 11 weeks to start the year, but will be more mindful of burnout after falling agonisingly short.

“I’m setting the schedule, both tournaments and practice, with my mind on the Masters but I went a little bit over the top last year and, with my time again, I would have taken a bit of a time off after getting inside the top 50,” he said.

“It is a week to week proposition. Win a tournament and you’re there or accumulate enough points but, to do that, I will have to play better than I have been playing.

“I’ve come back from a true break in Australia with some fresh ideas on little technique things I haven’t appreciated quite enough and I am getting excited to get going.”

Comment: Why do we hate asylum seekers?

If it weren’t clear already, it has to be by now.

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Last week, polling conducted by the Sydney Morning Herald showed that:

A strong majority of Australians, 60 per cent, (also) want the Abbott government to “increase the severity of the treatment of asylum seekers.”

It has confirmed everything many have thought for a long time. Australians are clearly just a bunch of racists who want to punish asylum seekers for the sake of punishing them. No matter how harsh we are, whether it is denying asylum to anyone who comes by boat, or locking people up in cruel conditions in detentions centres, all we want to do is hurt people more and more. We clearly hate asylum seekers.

Clearly the question we need to answer is ‘why’? It is the question I, amongst many others, have been asking for ages. Why are we so disposed to hate people whose only crime is to come to Australia by boat? Why are we so determined to treat people so cruelly? Why is this such a defining issue for Australian politics?

Looking into it however, I cannot help but think that we’re asking the wrong question. Because when I ask the question, ‘why do we hate asylum seekers’, the only response I can come up with is ‘we don’t’.

Let’s just have a look at some evidence. Because if you look around you can see that whilst of course racism exists in Australia, it is hard to find it to be the only or even the overwhelming cause of our policies directed towards asylum seekers. Richard Cooke explains it like this (a long quote I know, but Cooke explains it better than I could):

Take Europe as a control group – it’s often favourably featured in those infographics – and the contrast is telling. Political parties far to the right of a One Nation wet dream hold serious political sway in Austria, the Netherlands, France, Finland, Italy, Greece, Belgium, Denmark, Hungary and the Baltic states. In many of these places they have the power to make or break governments, or even challenge for presidencies. Cynics might say Australia’s political system dealt with the lunar right by incorporating its ideas, but there is little in the Liberal or Labor platforms that would placate supporters of the Front National.

There’s a simple reason that other Western countries have more anti-immigration political parties than Australia – their populations are significantly more racially intolerant. In Italy 94% of people say immigration is a ‘big problem’. Three-quarters of the French say Islam is incompatible with their values. In 2003, at the height of ‘we will decide’ fever, Australia was the country polled second most favourably disposed to immigration, behind only Canada. More than 60% of us said we wanted immigration to increase or stay the same. In Germany that figure was 22%. These are not cherry-picked figures, but representations of a long-standing and broad trend. For a bunch of racists, we are unusually tolerant.

This ‘toleration’ can be seen in anecdotal evidence around the country. For example, a petition to stop the deportation of Pakistani man Ali Choudhry last week amassed over 140,000 signatures within a matter of days, whilst organisations such as the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre have amassed so much non-Government funding that they can hire 45 staff members. Clearly there is some compassion out there. The recent concern for ‘deaths at sea’ is the mainstream expression of this compassion. Whilst many (including myself) have seen it as simply a cover-up of real reasons for new policies, it has clearly captured the emotions of many – emotions I simply cannot argue are fake.

This is not to say that racism doesn’t occur in Australia, nor is it to deny the experiences of racism that immigrants often face. Racism and just general hatred are clearly part of the picture. But I just don’t think it paints a full picture at all.

So what is the answer then? If we are so tolerant, why do continue to treat asylum seekers with such cruelty, and then demand even more. Well, to quote Bill Clinton, “it’s the economy stupid.” Tad Tietze explains it like this:

Those reasons (for the continued asylum debate) are defined primarily by the political needs of elites to create scapegoats and distractions for their failure to provide security to ordinary people already living here – not of borders, but of a social kind. That is, they seek to displace social insecurity into a defence of national integrity, here in the form of ‘border security’, in the process shifting blame for social ills onto an external ‘other’ that is threatening to invade and disrupt our livelihoods and cohesion. While previously the natural territory of the Right, the mainstream Left has been drawn into playing this game the more it has abandoned its traditional support base in favour of pro-corporate neoliberal policies.”

In a neoliberal world, in which economic insecurity in particular is on the rise, our politicians have used asylum seekers as scapegoats to deal with their economic failures. They’ve used them as scapegoats to avoid any backlash for the problems their neoliberal policies are causing.

We can see good examples of this from around the world. In Greece for example, there has been a strong correlation between the recent economic crisis and opposition to immigration. The right in Greece, in particular the far-right as represented by Golden Dawn, have targeted immigrants as the reason for the country’s economic problems. This has represented a potential failure of others to clearly articulate the real issues going on (noting of course that the far left SYRIZA have grown in Greece as well) – the failures of neoliberalism and the EU economic policies that have become part of that.

If you want to find some of the best evidence for this in Australia, you should go back and look at the poll I quoted at the start of the article. As well as finding that 60% of people want the Government to treat asylum seekers more harshly, it also found that 59% of people thought that those coming by boat were not genuine refugees.

The statistic is telling as it reflect a concerted campaign by Governments, both ALP and Coalition. We know the stories. Asylum seekers are simply economic refugees. They spend ‘thousands of dollars’ to come here, which clearly shows that they are rich and are just doing this for economic gain. They are here to ‘steal our jobs’. It has always played part in the asylum narrative – a narrative that recently expanded out targeting people on 457 visas. The asylum, and immigration narrative in general, has become one about economics.

And this is on purpose. It is a concerted campaign. Asylum seekers, and now immigrants in general, have become scapegoats for our economic insecurity. Shielding ourselves from the economic concerns we face today, we have placed the blame on immigrants – whether it is asylum seekers or those on 457 visas.

So what is the solution?

Whilst the work and campaigns done by advocates should continue – work that taps into our values of compassion and concern for others – a new angle also needs to be taken. We cannot just think of asylum and immigration politics as just being about race and compassion anymore. It is also about economics. And that means that the left needs to do a better job at attacking our economic realities. We need to target the real causes of the problems we face – the neoliberal economic agenda and the Government policies that have supported that.

The right has done an excellent job of targeting asylum seekers using economic means and what we need to do now is turn that around – showing that it is in fact our leaders who are causing these problems, not people arriving here by boat.

Simon Copland is a freelance writer and climate campaigner. He is a regular columnist for the Sydney Star Observer and blogs at The Moonbat. This article was originally published on Ausopinion.com.

Baby Fed credits Australian coach

Tired of being known as “Baby Fed”, rising tennis star Grigor Dimitrov credits Australian coach Roger Rasheed for finally giving him a grand slam edge.

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The Bulgarian former world No.1 junior takes on Yen-Hsun Lu on Thursday hoping to reach the third round of the Australian Open for the first time.

Dimitrov’s sorry grand slam record extends beyond Melbourne, with the 22-year-old yet to venture beyond the round of 32 at any of the season’s four majors, despite 13 previous attempts.

Lumped with the “Baby Fed” nickname since his junior days because of his Federer-like playing style and obvious talents, Dimitrov is intent on making his own name.

Hence why the 22-year-old boyfriend of Maria Sharapova hired Rasheed – former coach of Lleyton Hewitt and Gael Monfils – last September.

“He’s always been very picky with his players, which shows he means business,” Dimitrov said.

“So it’s a good sign that he’s someone who is going to push me around and we’ll have that mutual respect.

“But at the same time, he’s going to be tough but fair, which I think is important.

“We’ve been together for four months now so we’re a work in progress. There are a lot of things to come and we both believe in it.

“It’s exciting times ahead.”

Dimitrov said the partnership had already yielded dividends, with the world No.22 saying his tough four-set first-round win over American Bradley Klahn was a result of a a gruelling off-season with Rasheed.

“I ran around for around three or four hours and felt alright physically, which helps you lot mentally out there as well,” he said.

“I’m starting to find my way around a bit better in terms of preparing before a grand slam and finding the right to formula to get out there and play a good match.

“It’s our first grand slam together so we talk every day together about little pieces that we can focus on to be better.

“So hopefully with time and of course playing more matches and the experience of being together – and that experience that he had with past players – he can bring something extra and that’s what I’m looking for.”

Man charged with illegal betting at Open

A UK man is the first person charged in Victoria with “courtsiding” at a tennis match, with police alleging he placed bets on point outcomes at the Australian Open.

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The 22-year-old, in Melbourne for the event, was arrested after a match on Tuesday afternoon following intelligence received by Tennis Australia and passed onto police.

Deputy Commissioner Graham Ashton said authorities are continuing to monitor the event, as intelligence suggests others are in Melbourne with the intention of courtsiding and a syndicate is involved.

No players are believed to be involved.

Mr Ashton said the offence occurs when someone sitting on the side of the court uses an electronic device to send a signal to someone elsewhere who can then bet on the outcome of a spot in an event, such as a serve.

That bet is able to be placed before the legitimate bookmaking agencies are able to close off their betting on that particular incident.

Mr Ashton says it mostly concerns overseas betting where overseas bookmakers bet on Australian sports.

Courtsiding was made illegal in Victoria last year, with new laws introduced covering offences related to cheating at gambling.

The UK man has been charged with one count of engaging in conduct that would corrupt a betting outcome, punishable by up to 10 years’ jail.

He was released on bail to appear in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday with one of the bail conditions barring him attending the Australian Open.

The new laws have been used in relation to illegal betting on soccer but it is the first time they have been used in regard to tennis.

There was an incident at the tennis last year but the legislation did not exist in Victoria at that time, Mr Ashton said.

“I’m not aware of an example anywhere in the world where the courtsiding’s been able to be dealt with in a criminal setting,” he said on Wednesday.

Mr Ashton says the incident, which is thought to involve a syndicate, should serve as a stern warning to overseas syndicates looking to come to Australia and cheat on betting.

Police are working with overseas enforcement agencies to identify the recipient of the information in this case.