An investigation into a betting scandal has led to charges against four players for staking thousands of pounds on their own team to lose.

A fifth player has also been charged by the Football Association for breaching betting rules over the same game - Accrington Stanley v Bury in Coca-Cola League Two in May last year.

The FA have not brought match-fixing charges - such accusations are extremely difficult to prove - but the players could face lengthy suspensions and perhaps even life bans if they are found guilty.

The four players then at Accrington Stanley were Jay Harris, David Mannix, Robert Williams and skipper Peter Cavanagh. Andrew Mangan, who was at Bury, has been charged with betting on a victory for his own team which is also against FA rules.

Both Harris and Cavanagh played in the game which ended 2-0 to Bury.

An FA statement said: ‘All five are alleged to have placed bets on Bury to win this match. Mannix is alleged to have placed stakes to the value of approximately £4,000; Mangan £3,500; Harris £2,000; Williams £1,000; and Cavanagh on a £5 accumulator.’

The FA were alerted after bookies in the north-west reported unusual betting patterns in the lead-up to the match with higher-than-usual amounts being staked in particular areas of the country.

A lengthy investigation has uncovered enough evidence to bring the charges but according to FA sources they believe they have only scratched the surface in terms of the amount of money actually bet.

Harris, who is now registered with Chester, has also been charged in relation to betting on a game involving his new club and another two League Two fixtures.

Cavanagh has also been charged with further breaches in relation to his betting on another Accrington match in which he played and on a number of other League Two matches.

All five have until 23 April to respond to the charges.

Meanwhile, Leighton McGivern, also registered with Accrington Stanley at the time of the game, was charged last month with failure to provide the FA with information requested during the course of the investigation. He has denied the charge.

Under FA rules, players, managers or coaching staff are prohibited from betting on the result or progress of any match or competition in which they are participating or have any direct or indirect influence over.

Cavanagh and Mannix are former Liverpool trainees, while Harris was a trainee at Everton. Cavanagh and Williams are still registered with Accrington while Mannix is at Chester. Mangan is now with Blue Square Premier side Forest Green.