Last week, former Conference South footballer Moses Swaibu became the latest person to appear in court for the alleged involvement in a match-fixing conspiracy.
Match-fixing continues to be an unsavoury blemish on the beautiful game. A recent info graphic reveals that the £306 billion illegal betting industry has seen at least 380 matches fixed on the continent. We take stock of the corruption within football's corridors by looking at the seven worst match-fixing scandals to rock the game.
1. The Roman Empire falls (Italy)
Italy’s first brush with corruption erupted in 1980 after two Rome-based businessmen worked out it would be beneficial to place bets on the outcome of fixed matches. With well-placed friends in the Lazio dressing room, they put their plan into place only to run up major debts to criminal bookmakers (betting was technically illegal at the time).
The shameless duo then convinced themselves that the players were the crooks and so blamed them for not losing properly. For their next trick, the hapless pair attempted to blackmail the Italian Football Federation into clearing up their mess and pay the debts on their behalf.
When this devious and cowardly tactic failed, they scarpered to the press and sold their story. Both were eventually arrested along with prominent Italian club officials and thirty three players. Among these was Paolo Rossi, who would later return from a three year suspension to fire Italy to glory at the 1982 World Cup.
2. Tampering Tapie (Marseille)
Four consecutive domestic titles, a Champions League crown and a prodigious youth academy made Marseille the envy of Europe in the early 1990s.
But in 1993, the French giants were found guilty of match-fixing. Details emerged of how lurid business mogul and club chairman Bernard Tapie bribed Valenciennes FC to throw a league game. The £30,000 bribe would tie up the domestic championship, giving Marseille players plenty of time to prepare for their Champions League final match with AC Milan. They went on to beat a star-studded Milan outfit one-nil, but their triumph soon became overshadowed.
The scandal’s outcome saw Marseille stripped of their 1993 league title and banned from re-entering the Champions League. The financial fallout – Marseille were deprived of continental competition revenues and their fraudulent benefactor – saw them relegated to Ligue 2.
You can’t help but feel a little sorry for Marseille fans. Football provided respite from the city’s high unemployment and multi-cultural tension. And in eccentric keeper Fabien Barthez and defender Marcel Desailly, the club had fostered genuine young talent.
Tapie, meanwhile, was sentenced to two years in jail before embarking on a failed acting career.
3. Robbing Robert (Germany)
In 2005, disgraced German referee Robert Hoyzer was jailed for two years after admitting to betting on a match he had personally rigged.
Whilst officiating a game between Hamburg and Paderborn, he awarded two farcical penalties against the former and sent off one of their players – Belgian Emile Mpenza. It later transpired that Hoyzer had ties to a Croatian organised crime syndicate who wagered large sums on Bundesliga games.
Despite the affair, German football has recovered to boast a powerful commercial infrastructure. Its leading clubs are lauded for their transparency, subsidized ticket prices and adherence to UEFA’s financial fair play.
4. Best of enemies (England)
English football’s most notorious scandal is almost a century old. On Good Friday 1915, Liverpool hosted Manchester United in a game that was later judged to be fixed.
Manchester needed to avoid defeat in order to stay in the top flight and, as luck would have it, ran out 0-2 winners at Anfield. The result saw the Red Devils survive at what would have been Chelsea’s expense, were it not for an expansion of the First Division.
Four players from Manchester Utd and three from Liverpool were found guilty by the FA, and subsequently dealt lifetime bans.
5. Belgian waffles (Standard Liege)
In 1982, Standard Liege manager Raymond Goethals coerced his players into offering their match bonuses to the opposition for the last game of the season in order to guarantee the league title.
Upon sentencing, Liege were allowed to keep their league crown, but were fined £75,000 and had thirteen members of their squad banned. Goethals resigned and fled to Portugal before, ironically, joining Bernard Tapie as manager of Marseille in 1991.
Dastardly and Muttley oversaw a 1993 Champions League win before the match-fixing scandal came to light. Goethals was never convicted of any wrongdoing, but his chequered past and close relationship with Tapie left many suspicious.
6. Falling legends (Italy, again)
Where to start with the serial offender that is Italy?
A wave of betting scandals has seen household names Antonio Conte and Beppe Signori prosecuted, and snarling World Cup winner Gennaro Gattuso placed under investigation. The ‘Calciopoli’ scandal was a lamentable low-point. Shortly before Italy’s successful World Cup campaign in 2006, Juventus were relegated to Serie B and stripped of their league titles, while similar punishments were dished out to Fiorentina and Lazio.
Interestingly the crimes, which relate to match-fixing and bribery, were discovered by chance. Police first caught wind of skulduggery when they were tapping phone-calls to investigate a doping scandal.
What they actually heard was Juventus’ general manager Luciano Moggi admitting to the coercion of match officials, implicating three other clubs in the process. For his part in the scandal, blundering blabber-mouth Moggi was sentenced to a five year jail term.
7. Pain in Spain?
The jury is still out on this one, but according to La Liga president Javier Tebas around “eight to ten games a season” are likely to be fixed across the top two leagues.
His viewpoint is compounded by managing director of Smartodds, Matthew Benham, who asserts that Spain and Austria are most susceptible to match-fixing. Brentford FC owner Benham runs a data capture company committed to identifying unusual spikes in betting patterns.
Tebas has already drawn up several deterrents, which include lifetime bans for guilty directors and players, and three years bans for those who withhold information about offending individuals.
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