Violation of integrity rules
Major League Soccer (MLS) has suspended Felipe Hernandez for placing bets on two MLS matches. The Sporting Kansas City midfielder will be suspended for the rest of 2021 without pay due to these breaches of the league’s gambling integrity rules. In addition to conducting its own investigation, MLS also got a law firm to conduct an independent investigation into the matter.
had concerns about his personal safety after accumulating gambling debts
The MLS investigation began on July 5, 2021 after Hernandez informed his club that he had concerns about his personal safety after accumulating gambling debts. Both Sporting Kansas City and MLS referred the issue to law enforcement and ensured that Hernandez had access to proper counseling and support.
The 23-year-old had originally gotten suspended in July 2021, pending the conclusion of the law enforcement and MLS investigations. These have both now finished.
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, the law firm that conducted an independent investigation in cooperation with law enforcement, interviewed witnesses, looked at online gambling account data, and reviewed betting activity on certain MLS games.
Following this review, the law firm found that Hernandez had placed bets on two MLS games while he was a player for Sporting Kansas City, but the matches did not include his own team. There was no evidence found that he had ever placed a wager on a game involving his own team, that he had confidential information regarding the two games, that the integrity of an MLS game was impacted by his betting activity, or that any other MLS players were gambling on games.
The path forward
Hernandez fully cooperated with the MLS investigation and will be able to get reinstated on January 1, 2022. He will need to submit his application to the MLS commissioner who will assess the player’s compliance based on different types of directives, such as having ongoing counseling.
If new information comes to light regarding this matter, the league has the ability to reopen the investigation and hand out further discipline. In the MLS statement, the league said that: “The integrity of our game and safety of players is the leagues’ top priority.”
MLS thanked Sporting Kansas City, the MLS Players Association, and law enforcement for their assistance and cooperation.
Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes spoke about the bravery that his player showed in coming forward about his gambling issues. Vermes said: “He could easily let his mind race and say, ‘Hey, maybe I’d never play soccer again in Major League Soccer,’ so it took a lot of courage for him to do that.”
Felipe Hernandez himself took to Twitter on October 8 to speak about his struggles with gambling addiction and his hopes to eventually get back on the field with Sporting Kansas City: