Football has been a beloved sport for generations. However, beyond the thrilling goals and incredible saves, there exists a darker side to the beautiful game – a history of match-fixing scandals that have shaken the foundations of football.

In this article, we will delve into the sordid tales of deceit, corruption, and betrayal that have plagued the sport over the years.

From players and referees to organised crime syndicates, the world of football betting scandals is a complex web of intrigue that continues to cast a shadow over the sport we all love.

1964 British Betting Scandal

The British Betting Scandal of 1964 is still considered to be the biggest match-fixing scandal ever to hit British football.

Jimmy Gauld, a Scottish player who had spells with Swindon, Watford, Charlton, St Johnstone, and Mansfield, was the ringleader of the scam.

However, it also involved plenty of other footballers over several years.

The Scam

Gauld was drawn into a ‘career of match-fixing’ and influenced by a betting syndicate. He wanted to make some quick cash by influencing the results of matches.

In 1962 Gauld approached David Layne, a former team-mate at Swindon Town who was then playing at Sheffield Wednesday, to identify a target match to fix.

Layne then suggested his Sheffield Wednesday were likely to lose their upcoming game against Ipswich Town and spoke to two of his fellow players, Peter Swan and Tony Kay, to ensure the outcome.

All three players bet against their own side and proceeded to lose 2-0.

The following season, Gauld and his syndicate targeted a match between Bradford Park Avenue and Bristol Rovers on April 20th 1963.

He recruited Keith Williams and Esmond Million of Bristol Rovers. It was around this time that rumours had begun to circulate about match-fixing in the lower leagues of English football.

Fast forward to 1964. Gauld was in search of a final payday, and he sold his story to the Sunday People for around £7,000.

This incriminated the three Sheffield Wednesday players that he had initially brought into the scheme. Gauld provided taped conversations used to convict himself and the others.

The Outcome

The players were accused of betting on their own teams to lose and then deliberately underperforming to ensure that the bets were successful.

In 1965, ten players, including Gauld, were all punished severely for the betting scandal. They were charged with conspiracy to defraud and were subsequently found guilty in court.

Gauld being the ringleader, was sentenced to a 4-year prison sentence while the others had varying sentences between four and fifteen months.

Years later, Peter Swan spoke to various British media outlets about the scandal. In an interview with The Mirror, he was asked if he had done anything to throw a match.

“No. We were at Ipswich and we never beat them at the time, so I didn’t have to do anything. But it is easily done so that nobody knows.

“I could have brought a player down for a penalty or stood back from a tackle and let somebody through.”

Jimmy Gauld’s football career effectively ended due to the scandal and his subsequent imprisonment.

He was banned from professional football for life by the Football League.

Calciopoli Scandal – Italy 2006

The Calciopoli betting scandal, also known as the Italian football scandal of 2006, was a major match-fixing and corruption scandal that rocked Italian football.

It exposed a web of illicit activities involving top football clubs, referees, and football officials.

The scandal unfolded in the summer of 2006, shortly after Italy’s triumph in the FIFA World Cup.

Italian authorities began investigating allegations of widespread match-fixing and corruption in Italian football, particularly involving Serie A clubs.

The investigation relied heavily on wiretapped phone conversations among various football officials, club executives, and referees.

These conversations revealed a network of collusion and manipulation aimed at influencing match results.

Match Fixing Details

Several top Italian clubs were implicated in the scandal, including Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio, and Reggina. Juventus, in particular, was heavily implicated and bore the brunt of the scandal’s consequences.

Several referees were found to have been involved in manipulating match outcomes by favouring certain teams through biased officiating.

Specific games in the Calciopoli scandal include:

Juventus vs. Udinese when referee Massimo De Santis was accused of favouring Juventus by awarding them a questionable penalty kick.

Milan vs. Chievo when Paolo Bertini, another implicated referee, officiated this match. Milan won the game with a last-minute penalty, and it was alleged that Bertini’s decision to award the penalty was influenced by the match-fixing network.

Juventus vs. AC Milan was a high-profile match, known as the ‘Moggiopoli’ game, involved Juventus and AC Milan.

Juventus won the match 1-0 with a controversial penalty kick. It was suggested that the match was manipulated in Juventus’s favour as part of the overall match-fixing scheme.

Who Was Punished?

The Italian football authorities and the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) took swift action in response to the scandal.

Juventus was stripped of their 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 Serie A titles and relegated to Serie B.

AC Milan, Fiorentina, and Lazio received points deductions in Serie A and several club officials and referees were banned from football-related activities.

Italy’s national team manager, Marcello Lippi, and his staff faced criticism and scrutiny for their potential involvement, although they were not directly implicated.

Luciano Moggi (Juventus) was sentenced to a prison term of five years and four months.

Antonio Giraudo, the CEO of Juventus during the Calciopoli scandal, was also sentenced to prison. He received a prison term of three years and four months for his involvement.

Pierluigi Pairetto, a former referee and head of the Italian Referees’ Association, was sentenced to a prison term of two years and eight months.

Paolo Bergamo, another referee implicated in the scandal, received a prison sentence of three years and eight months.

Massimo De Santis, a referee, was sentenced to a prison term of four years and four months.

The Calciopoli scandal had a profound impact on Italian football, damaging its reputation both domestically and internationally.

It led to a significant overhaul of the Italian football governance structure, with the creation of new regulations and oversight mechanisms to prevent future corruption.

Totonero – Italy 1980

Calciopoli was far from the first Italian match-fixing scandal. The Totonero scandal in 1980 was named after the term for illegal betting schemes in Italy.

It was one of the most notorious football scandals in Italy and had far-reaching consequences for the sport.

The ‘Totocalcio’ was an Italian football betting pool. In the early 1980s, illegal betting and match-fixing activities were rampant in Italian football.

What Happened?

The scandal centred around the manipulation of results in Serie A and Serie B matches.

Players and referees were bribed to influence the outcomes of games, with the goal of helping bettors win money through illegal gambling.

The scandal involved several key figures, including players, club officials, and criminal elements.

Notably, Paolo Rossi, a star striker for the Italian national team, was implicated in the scandal.

Italian authorities initiated an investigation into the illegal betting network in 1980.

Wiretapped phone conversations and testimonies from whistleblowers played a crucial role in uncovering the extent of the match-fixing and corruption.

Which Clubs Got Punished?

As a result of the investigation, numerous individuals were arrested, including players, club officials, and criminals involved in the illegal gambling syndicate.

A.C. Milan and Lazio were both relegated to Serie B. Avellino, Bologna, Perugia, Palermo, and Taranto all had a 5-point deduction for the following season.

There were also several players involved. Claudio Gentile was banned for one year due to his involvement.

Also punished was Italian legend Paolo Rossi who was banned from playing for two years.

Despite his initial suspension, Paolo Rossi made a remarkable comeback to football.

He served his suspension, returned to the sport, and played a pivotal role in Italy’s 1982 FIFA World Cup victory, winning the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer.

Italian Drink-Spiking Scandal 2011

Another incident from Italy, this time from further down the Italian pyramid in Serie C.

An encounter between Cremonese and Paganese became famous for all the wrong reasons.

Early in the game, Cremonese players began to look exhausted with some struggling even to walk.

It was eventually discovered their own goalkeeper Marco Paolini had spiked his team’s drinks with tranquilisers before the match in order to fix the game.

Was He Punished?

The goalkeeper was punished severely with a 5-year ban after the Italian FA found links between him and Dan Tan, a disgraced Singaporean businessman with ties to match-fixing scandals all over the world.

It transpired that Marco Paolini had been a central figure in the organisation.

He was accused of having actively worked to fix games, of collecting illegal bets and of fixing matches for the whole organisation.

Nigerian Scandal 2013

The Nigerian Football Association handed down several lifetime bans after one of the most blatant attempts at match-fixing ever.

The scandal involved Plateau United Feeders and Police Machine, two football clubs in Nigeria’s lower leagues, and the matches they played against Akurba FC and Babayaro FC.

The investigation revolved around suspicions of match-fixing and gross manipulation of results to secure promotion.

Plateau United Feeders faced Akurba FC and won their match 79-0. Police Machine played Babayaro FC and won theirs 67-0.

These lopsided scorelines were highly unusual and suggested that something was amiss.

Following these astonishing results, investigations were launched into the matches. It became evident that there had been a deliberate effort to manipulate the outcomes through unethical means.

Were They Banned?

As a result of the investigations, Plateau United Feeders and Police Machine were heavily penalised.

They were banned from participating in Nigerian football leagues indefinitely, and their players and officials were also subjected to sanctions.

The scandal exposed deep-seated issues of corruption and match-fixing in Nigerian football, particularly in the lower divisions.

The Plateau United Feeders and Police Machine scandal of 2013 remains one of the most extreme and egregious instances of match-fixing in football history.

All four clubs were banned from football for 10 years. A Nigerian Football Federation committee also recommended that match officials involved in the two matches be given lifetime bans.

Marseille 1993

French club Marseille were found guilty of match-fixing in 1993. The side won four Ligue 1 titles between 1989 and 1992 under the guidance of Bernard Tapie, as well as a UEFA Champions League trophy in 1993.

However, their domination of French football came to a halt when it emerged that their manager was involved in match-fixing.

Did They Get Punished?

Marseille were stripped of their league title and banned from entering the Champions League and Intercontinental Cup.

Tapie received two years in prison whilst Marseille suffered financial problems, and eventually, they got relegated to Ligue 2.

Bruce Grobbelaar

On November 10th 1994, the former Goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar was accused by The Sun of match-fixing during his time at Liverpool.

It was all done to benefit a betting syndicate and he was caught on video discussing it.

He was charged with conspiracy to corrupt, along with the Wimbledon goalkeeper Hans Segers and Aston Villa striker John Fashanu.

Despite two trials the jury failed to reach a conclusive verdict. All three were allowed to continue playing and were then all cleared after a further investigation.

West Germany vs Austria (1982)

This was a totally different type of match-fixing scandal.

Going into the final game of the Group Stages during the 1982 World Cup, the Austrians and West Germany knew that a 1-0 win for the latter would see both teams progress from the group stage at the expense of Algeria.

After West Germany scored early in the game, both sides mostly stopped trying. What followed was an ‘exhibition’ game where both teams passed the ball around the pitch with no attempt to score.

Any Punishment?

Despite an official complaint from Algeria and widespread criticism, the result stood.

This match is cited as a reason why final group games in international tournaments are played at the same time. ​

Chicago White Sox – 1919

Known as the ‘Black Sox Scandal‘, this is still one of the most controversial incidents in American sporting history.

It involved members of the Chicago White Sox, a Major League Baseball (MLB) team, conspiring to intentionally lose the 1919 World Series in exchange for money from gamblers.

The Details

In 1919, the Chicago White Sox were one of the best teams in baseball and were heavily backed to win the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.

However, some players on the team were dissatisfied with their salaries and began discussing the possibility of fixing the series in exchange for financial compensation from gamblers.

A group of players, including Eddie Cicotte, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and Chick Gandil, conspired with gamblers, including Arnold Rothstein, to intentionally lose games in the World Series.

The 1919 World Series began on October 1, 1919 and the White Sox lost the series to the Cincinnati Reds, five games to three.

Suspicious plays and poor performances by some of the White Sox players raised concerns and rumours about the fix began to circulate.

In September 1920, a grand jury was convened to investigate the allegations. As a result of their testimonies, several players, including Cicotte and Jackson, admitted their involvement in the conspiracy.

What Happened To The White Sox Players?

The eight players involved in the scandal, known as the “Black Sox,” were indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the public.

They went to trial in 1921, and in a shocking turn of events, they were acquitted by the jury despite the evidence against them.

The players were later banned from professional baseball for life by MLB’s first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, regardless of their legal acquittals.

In response to the scandal, MLB implemented strict rules and penalties against gambling and fixed games.

The Black Sox betting scandal remains a dark chapter in baseball history, and it has been the subject of numerous books, films, and documentaries.