The Premier League has made for some pretty extravagant headlines over the past few years. From Cantona’s karate to Leicester City’s 2015 season, good gossip will always earn the papers some decent money. But where there is real money and sport, you will also find corruption and unfortunately the EPL has its share of dark times too.
Why High Paying Gambling Venues Attract Players
Everybody loves a good bet from time to time, and there is plenty of great gambling sites and casinos online with really high payouts that can earn you some decent coin too, but it’s inevitable that some players can be attracted to the dark side with the lure of big money.
The difference being that while for average people playing at high paying casinos and/or bookies can be a simple moment of distraction, for athletes and sports players there is so much more at stake. So much more, that a gambling scandal can jeopardise their entire career.
These scandals, though money makers for the tabloids, have left a dark stain on English football to this day and have no place in the sport. It’s not like this is cricket!
1915 Match Fixing
Liverpool and Manchester United have had some great rivalry over the years but back in 1915, the two teams seemed to put their differences aside for the individual benefit of a handful of players from both teams. It’s the worst scandal of the century, and this is how it went down:
United were having a season to forget. Facing relegation, they were desperate to stay in the top tier and with World War I looming right over their heads, some players looked to cash in on their final professional season. Liverpool was in middle of the pack and out of contention, so Jackie Sheldon, former United player, set wheels in motion. Liverpool was to throw the game to keep United up and the players involved were to be handsomely rewarded.
By the end of the match, too many coincidences were adding up. A missed penalty was the first but when , many people witnessed the public outcry from some of his teammates for nearly scoring. It wasn’t going to end well.
The FA launched an enquiry after it was discovered that substantial betting had been placed on a 2-0 United win. The investigation concluded with 7players from both teams receiving life bans from the sport. No further punishment was directed to the clubs as it was solely the players that had colluded. Pagnam became one of the chief witnesses in the case, testifying against his teammates and declaring that not only had he not wanted to be involved but actively tried to ruin the plan with his cross-bar-hitting attempt.
Although all players had their bans lifted in 1919 for recognition of the services they made to their country in the war, it was a stark reminder for any future players. The FA would not hesitate to apply the full force of the law for anyone who brought dishonour to their game.
1964 Betting Scandal
Jimmy Gauld was the ringleader of a betting syndicate that became known as the biggest betting scandal in English football history in 1964. Operating over several years and included many players, Gauld orchestrated the fixing of many matches to make himself and his partners easy money.
Beginning in 1962, Gauld contacted former teammate David Layne of Sheffield Wednesday who agreed to ensure their upcoming Ipswich encounter would end as a loss. They received help from fellow Wednesday players Peter Swan and Tony Kay and all three players bet against their team, who lost 2-0.
The same day, two other matches were fixed: Lincoln City vs Brentford and Oldham Athletic vs York City. Again, both orchestrated by Gauld.
The following year, the Bristol vs Bradford match was targeted by Gauld. Bristol players Esmond Million and Keith Williams were recruited but the pair failed to prevent a 2-all draw.
Gauld, for-seeing his ultimate demise in the midst of an FA investigation, sold his story to the tabloids and it was those taped confessions that were the first of their kind in English Court. Gauld, along with 33 other players, was found guilty and all handed life bans. Sentences ranged from 4 –
15 months imprisonment with Gauld receiving 4 years behind bars as the master mind of the whole plan.
Now, please do not assume that we are in anyway declaring Sturridge to be in the same realm as the previous two incidences. But the young(ish) striker has been on the wrong end of a suspension over the last season for a betting scandal.
His suspension last year, although completely warranted, shows just how easily players can be caught cheating the system, whether their goal or not. Garnering advice from his family and friends about his forthcoming transfer from Liverpool to West Brom in 2018, some of those confidants made a tidy sum online with that knowledge.
While it doesn’t speak of a culture of scandal and criminality it does highlight how so many different pieces of the football puzzle can be bet on and profited from. It’s the way the future has been going for many years but is it really the future we want to see?
It’s clear that mixing sport and money will always pave the way for some to profit on the shadiness of others and how fine a line it can be.
Image from: unsplash.com