A UK national newspaper claims to have evidence that former Portsmouth, Reading and Charlton footballer Sam Sodje deliberately got himself sent off in exchange for thousands of pounds from an illegal betting syndicate. The National Crime Agency (NCA) says it is investigating the claims, which appeared in the Sun on Sunday.

Sodje, who played briefly for Reading in the Premier League and has four caps for Nigeria, was filmed punching an opponent when playing for Portsmouth in February this year and allegedly claims he was paid £70,000 for getting sent off. He is also alleged to have boasted that he and his brother Stephen could get other players booked or sent off if the money was right.

This is the latest in a string of allegations of match-fixing in the English game and by far the most serious. Recent claims that non-league players have been involved in match-fixing are still being investigated but the possibility of higher league matches being affected will cause shockwaves throughout the game.

The NCA was already investigating claims by The Telegraph that footballers who play for non-league Whitehawk FC in the Conference South division received money in exchange for throwing matches.

Two 22-year-old Whitehawk players, Michael Boateng and Hakeem Adelakun of Croydon in south London, have been charged with conspiracy and will appear at Birmingham Magistrates Court on 11 December.

As part of the same investigation Krishna Sanjey Ganeshan, 43, from Singapore, and Chann Sankaran, 33, from Hastings, will appear at the same court two days later.

Asian betting syndicates often make bets not only on the outcome or score of matches but on how many players will be booked, how many corners will be awarded and other apparently trivial details. Huge money often changes hands in the Far East as a result.

Allegations of match-fixing have long dogged the game. In one of the most serious cases, the 2006 Italian betting scandal or Calciopoli, Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina were all implicated. The most serious punishment was meted out to Juventus who were stripped of their 2005 and 2006 Serie A scudetto titles and relegated to Serie B.

Last February the European Union policy agency Europol conducted a huge investigation into match-fixing and said it had found evidence of fixing in some international games.

Watch video of Sodje's punching incident on YouTube, below: