Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Soccer: Match fixing ugly face of the beautiful game

European police revealed this week their investigations show that soccer around the world is being undermined by match fixing, claiming they have found at least 700 suspicious matches and identified more than 400 suspects. Chris Rattue looks at previous scandals that have rocked the world's number one game

The Fix
Three top English club players were jailed and banned for life - later reduced - for placing £50 ($94) bets at 2-1 on their Sheffield Wednesday team to lose against Ipswich Town. Ipswich won, although fair and square according to one of the crooked players. Two of them, Peter Swan and Tony Kay, were strong candidates for the England team that went on to win the 1966 World Cup. The players were unmasked by a newspaper - their crimes occurring when the English tabloid press was starting to flex its muscle - and about 30 others were netted from the three-year-old betting ring.

A judge told the ringleader he had "befouled" the sport, and he wanted to deter other "evil-minded" sports fraudsters. This story was the subject of a film, The Fix. Swan, a world class defender, ended up working in a bakery shop and was even prevented from watching his son play while banned. He has said: "We let a lot of people down and it will be with me until I die."

Dirty linen
Bruce Grobbelaar, Liverpool's clown prince of goalkeeping, was brought down by a newspaper sting in the 1990s. The accusations included that he took £40,000 to ensure Liverpool lost a match to Newcastle, which they did by 3-0. Technically, Grobbelaar - who was accused alongside two players from other clubs - eventually triumphed in the courts, but this was a Claytons victory.

The Law Lords savaged his reputation, and he was bankrupted by the legal proceedings. His ex-wife belatedly put the boot in, declaring him guilty. She detailed secretive phone calls Grobbelaar would conduct in their house and the thousands of pounds he stashed in an airing cupboard.

L'affaire du Totonero
An elegant name for a dirty business involving a syndicate tampering with Italian Serie A and B matches around 1980. Arrests were made, clubs relegated, points deducted, players banned ... kind of. One of the culprits was Paolo Rossi, whose three-year ban was reduced, enabling him to play in the 1982 World Cup finals. Rossi was the goalscoring star as Italy became world champions. One accuser has admitted to lying against Rossi, who maintains his innocence.

On the wrong track
Italian soccer was rocked when wiretappings led to Serie A giants Juventus and Milan being among those exposed for influencing refereeing appointments. As you might expect in Italy, this was no simple matter and a few conspiracy theories have ensued. Heavy but erratic punishments were handed down to clubs and individuals, including referees. Juventus boss Luciano Moggi - a former railway station caretaker - was banned for life and jailed. With the match manipulation scandal swirling, the Italian team responded by winning the World Cup in 2006, just as they had done in 1982.

Whistleblower
German soccer was hit by an extraordinary crisis on the eve of hosting the 2006 World Cup, although the scandal was confined to divisions below the prestige Bundesliga. Referee Robert Hoyzer's confession to rigging games revealed a depressingly wide world of soccer corruption linked to Croatian gamblers. A particularly bad Hoyzer performance in a game where Hamburg suffered a shock loss - after having a player sent off and conceding two odd penalties - had raised the initial suspicions. Once fingered, Hoyzer provided in-depth information that led to police raids. Of added concern, he indicated the syndicates had access to match official appointments for internationals before they were released, implicating UEFA. Among those convicted, Hoyzer was jailed for 29 months. German soccer boss Theo Zwanzier hoped prison sentences would "make one or two people think before trying to influence a football match". Maybe not, going by the latest scandal.

Reversal of fortune
Eleven Brazilian club games were replayed after referee Edilson Pereira de Carvalho was found to have favoured certain sides in return for money from an illegal online betting site in 2005. This caused Corinthians to unseat Internacional, who had won the title on the original results (only two of the replays matched the initial result). De Carvalho, who was getting up to $9000 a match for the fix, and another referee were banned for life.

Song and dance
Flamboyant businessman Bernard Tapie, the president of French club Marseille, bribed one of their opponents to throw a game and tread softly so as to not injure his players. This assured Marseille of the title and helped them prepare for the Champions League final against AC Milan, which they won. Tapie - a former Cabinet minister - was banned and jailed before continuing with his colourful life, including acting in a film and collaborating with a hip-hop artist. When confronted with the initial allegations, Tapie's defence was over the top - "I'm sickened. It's a lynching, and there's not the slightest proof of guilt." But there was. Marseille were stripped of their French title but did remain as the first ever Champions League winners. Tapie, whose long CV included owning a Tour de France-winning cycle team, had built Marseille into France's finest club side but they have mainly struggled since the 1993 scandal.

- NZ Herald

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