Corruption in Football

Football Corruption

Football can date its betting shame back to 1915 when a Football League inquiry concluded the First Division match that ended Manchester United 2 Liverpool 0 had been 'squared' by the players who had bet on the outcome. This intriguing story is brilliantly told in Graham Sharpe's book Free The Manchester United One (Robson Books).

Fifty years later, and far more seriously, ten players were given jail sentences for their part in match-fixing, though this time it was the bookmakers who were being defrauded.

The ringleader, journeyman professional Jimmy Gauld, organised large groups of fellow pros to bet on certain matches, throw them and then collect. In those days of bookies' coupons being printed in advance, the weight of money didn't alter the odds so the fixes were always profitable for Gauld and his cohorts, among them Sheffield Wednesday and England aces Tony Kay and Peter Swan.

The guilty men took their chances to bolster their own wages, which were nothing like the sums top footballers of today can attract.

Greed was also the motive in 1919 when the all-conquering Chicago White Sox threw baseball's World Series after accepting money from betting syndicates. 'Shoeless' Joe Jackson and his buddies earned about $5,000 from these rings and had few qualms about taking the cash because they believed they were not getting a decent wage from the club's owners.

Football's most sensational link with betting syndicates, however, came in 1997 when household names Bruce Grobbelaar, John Fashanu and Hans Segers stood trial charged with match-fixing.

The Sun said it had collected "overwhelming evidence" that the three men had been rigging matches, with Grobbelaar accused of taking £40,000 from a betting syndicate in the Far East to ensure Liverpool lost to Newcastle in 1993, and blowing a chance of making £125,000 by accidentally making a 'sensational' save against Manchester United.

Grobbelaar insisted that all he had done was forecast results, not fix them, and a compelling trial in Winchester ended with all three being acquitted.

Football in Italy and Greece has been investigated recently, with several Serie A matches the subject of suspicious betting patterns. It has reached the stage where many UK layers don't even bother pricing up matches towards the back end of the Italian season having had their fingers burned too often by mutually-convenient scorelines.

Floodlight failures have also directed the spotlight at big gambling syndicates in the Far East. Among the most notorious examples was a match between Tenerife and Athletic Bilbao in Spain's Primera Liga in 2002.

Bookmakers across Asia reported suspicious betting patterns on the game with home team Tenerife heavily opposed in match betting in the hours before kick-off. The islanders were deep in relegation trouble, knowing that only a victory for them and a loss by rivals Mallorca would keep them in La Liga.

The floodlights failed at half-time and Tenerife were left in the dark as they waited for news from Mallorca. The game only resumed once it was clear that Mallorca had won 2-1 and so Tenerife, who were themselves 2-1 up, went into the second half knowing they had already been relegated. They let in two goals after the restart to lose 3-2.