Football Betting Scandals – A History Of Match Fixing Scams

Match-Fixing - Betting Scandal

There have been some famous betting and match-fixing scandals over the years; many have had repercussions which impacted the wider world of football.

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 that involved several other footballers over several years. Gauld was drawn into a ‘career of match-fixing’ and influenced by a betting syndicate. He sought 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, that they ensure the outcome. All three players bet against their own side, which they proceeded to lose 2-0.

Jimmy Gauld – Match Fixer

Jimmy Gauld - Match Fixing

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 enticed into the scheme. Gauld provided taped conversations used to convict himself and the others.

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.”

Which Players Got Punished?

In 1965, ten players, including Gauld, were all punished severely. Gauld being the ringleader, was sentenced to a 4-year prison sentence while the others had varying sentences between four and fifteen months.

The scandal was later dramatised in the BBC’s ‘The Fix’.

Calciopoli Scandal – Italy 2006

The Calciopoli Scandal is regarded as the darkest hour in Italian football. The scandal was first uncovered in May 2006 after telephone interceptions showed incriminating conversations between club officials and referee organisations between the 2004 – 2006 Serie A seasons. The calls implicated league champions Juventus and several other teams including A.C. Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio, and Reggina.

Which Clubs Got Punished?

The clubs involved were punished, some harsher than others. Juventus were relegated to Serie B, and A.C. Milan had a 9-point deduction for the following season which made it difficult for them to challenge for the title. Juventus had their Scudetto’s won between 2003 – 2006 stripped.

Several individuals also went to prison. Former Juventus Director was sentenced to five years and four months, while Fiorentina owners Andrea Della Valle and Diego Della Valle each received a 15-month sentence.

Shorter and Longer-term Reprucusions?

The impacts on the clubs varied. Juventus had a period of inconsistency following their promotion back into Serie A into 2007. However, since 2011/2012, they started to dominate again and have won 9 Serie A titles in a row. A.C. Milan won the Champions League in 2007 but have struggled to compete in Europe since. They won the Serie A title in 2010/11, but that was their last major trophy. It also allowed Inter Milan to have a period of domination, culminating in their Champions League win during the 2009/2010 season under Jose Mourinho.

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 involved a syndicate attempting to influence Serie A and B matches. The protagonists this time were Avellino, Bologna, Juventus, Lazio, A.C. Milan, Napoli, Perugia, Pescara, Genoa, Lecce, Palermo, Pistoiese and Taranto.

Which Clubs Got Punished?

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 including Italian legend Paolo Rossi who were all punished with bans from playing for varying amounts of time.

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 that goalkeeper Marco Paolini had spiked opposition players drinks with tranquilisers to before the match. He hoped to hobble the players and pay off his gambling debts.

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.

Nigerian Scandal 2013

The Nigerian Football Association handed down several lifetime bans after one of the most blatant attempts at match-fixing ever. Plateau United Feeders and Police Machine were both on the verge of promotion before their respective matches with Akurba FC and Babayaro FC. Their victories quickly came into question when Plateau United Feeders won 79-0 and Police Machine won 67-0.

Who Got Punished?

The 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. Watch some of the goals here

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 to benefit a betting syndicate, after being 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, and what followed was an ‘exhibition’ game where both teams passed the ball around the pitch with no attempt to score.

Watch the last minute of Germany v Austria in 1982 

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. ​

Match-fixing In Other Sports?


Pakistan Spot-fixing Scandal – 2010

In September 2010, the International Cricket Council (ICC) suspended three Pakistan players (Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif, and Salman Butt) on allegations of spot-fixing. It was alleged they carried out specific on-field actions, including bowling no-balls at pre-determined times during a Test Match against England. The ICC gave all three players lengthy bans. The case was passed to the British Crown court, and all were convicted and sentenced to ‘spells of detention’.

Chicago White Sox – 1919

Known as the ‘Black Sox Scandal‘, this is still one of the most controversial incidents in American sporting history. Eight members of the Chicago White Sox Baseball team were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for money from a gambling syndicate. Players were persuaded to get involved following disagreements with the White Sox owner overpay. All the players were later banned for life from the sport. The scandal has since been referenced in films’ The Godfather Part II’ and ‘Field of Dreams’ as well as the TV series ‘Boardwalk Empire’.