A potted guide to corruption in football

By Keir Radnedge, Chairman of the AIPS football commission

Players, presidents and coaches come and go but football goes on. The trouble is, so does match-fixing. And it’s growing ever more virulent.

The latest revelations in Italy follow hard upon the Robert Hoyzer case in Germany and the ongoing inquiries into match-fixing in both Belgium and Portugal.

Events of the last two years have clarified the existence of three degrees of match-fixing.

The first involves bending referees and/or players to turn a match (or matches) for the sake of the results, meaning promotion and relegation and even titles.

A second twist involves bending matches for simple financial gain for the participants; and the third option is by far the most damaging, because the beneficiaries are faceless betting ring investors, often on the other side of the world.

Italy’s problems have been described as a “football tsunami” and as the “worst corruption scandal in the history of the game”. But the available evidence suggests this is a scandal which is specific to Italy because of the way in which a flawed administrative system is open to abuse.

More dangerous to the long-term credibility of football worldwide is the explosion of internet betting.

Manipulation is comparatively simple.

The wise criminal does not target a big club in a major league: for one thing, it is too obvious; for another, reaching the players and their entourages is not so simple. Finally, no top division star in England or Spain needs the mere small change on offer in exchange for the risk of a broken career and shattered image rights.

So, the solution is to target an unfashionable club in an unfashionable league, where security is lax, where financial insecurity reigns, and where cash-in-hand is always useful. This could be, for example, a national football league like, say, the one in Belgium, where financial fragility means clubs are perpetually merging for survival’s sake.

European football is hugely popular amid the Far East betting syndicates, because it is considered clean by comparison with the murky events on too many of the pitches of south-east Asia.

But for how much longer?

FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, believes that introducing professionalism for referees in the major football nations is both a guarantee of better standards, and a guard against manipulation. This may be true at the highest level, but, as the Hoyzer case in Germany proved, it has no role to play ‘out of sight’ down in a national lower division.

Football will remain vulnerable, partly through the weakness of outdated administrative structures, and partly because the game’s authorities do not possess police powers of search and arrest.


1900 – Burnley goalkeeper Jack Hillman is banned for one year for trying to bribe Nottingham Forest to lose. Forest won 4-0, Burnley relegated.

1905 – Billy Meredith, Manchester City’s captain and Wales winger, is banned for a season after attempting to bribe Aston Villa captain Alec Leake towards end of 1904-05 season when City were making a challenge for the championship.

1911 – Middlesbrough’s manager Andy Walker and chairman Thomas Gibson Poole are banned from football for trying to fix home game against local rivals Sunderland. Boro won 1-0.

1924 – John Browning, former Scotland player, and Archibald Kyle of Rangers, Blackburn and Airdrie, are sentenced to 60 days’ hard labour for offering Bo’Ness players £30 to fix Second Division match with Lochgelly.

1932 – Former Montrose captain Gavin Hamilton given 60 days’ jail for offering £40-£50 to Montrose player David Mooney to fix home match against Edinburgh City.

1965 – England’s most sensational match-fixing scandal. Ten League professionals are found guilty of match-fixing. Jimmy Gauld, an inside-forward for Charlton, Everton, Plymouth, Swindon and Mansfield between 1955 and 1960, is jailed for four years, the others for between four and 15 months. The players include England’s Peter Swan (Sheffield Wednesday) and Tony Kay (Everton, but previously with Wednesday) and their Sheffield Wednesday colleague David Layne.

1965 – Kay, Layne and Swan banned from football ‘sine die’ (until 1972).

1971 – Officials of Arminia Bielefeld are found guilty of putting up £90,000 to fix four West German League games.

1974 – The Solti-Lobo Case. Juventus escape punishment after accusations that they used a go-between, Deszo Solti, to try to bribe Portuguese referee Francisco Marques Lobo before a Champions Cup semi-final against Derby County in 1973.

1974 – Italian players are accused by Polish opponents of offering money to them on the field to lose a World Cup match in Stuttgart. Italy, needing a draw to stay in the finals, lose 2-1.

1978 – Scotland’s World Cup referee, John Gordon, and linesmen, Rollo Kyle, together with David McCartney, are suspended by Scottish FA after admitting they accepted presents worth £1,000 from Milan before a UEFA Cup match with Levski Spartak. Milan, fined £8,000 by UEFA, had drawn 1-1 in Bulgaria and won 3-0 at home.

1980 – The world’s highest paid player, Italian striker Paolo Rossi, is one of more than 30 banned for their part in widespread Italian match-fixing on behalf of an illegal betting ring. Milan and Lazio are relegated. Rossi’s ban ends just in time for him to lead Italy to their 1982 World Cup victory in Spain.

1986 – UEFA bars Roma from their competitions for a season and president Dino Viola from UEFA activities for four years after he tried to bribe a European Cup referee in a semi-final game against Dundee United in 1982. Roma won 3-0 and 3-2 on aggregate.

1988 – Hungarian full-back, Sandor Sallai, and former national team manager, Kalman Meszoly, are among more than 40 players and officials arrested in a match-fixing investigation.

1990 – Swindon Town are fined £7,500 by the FA. Former manager, Lou Macari, is fined £1,000 and censured, and chairman, Brian Hillier, suspended from football for three years after breaching rules by betting on the Newcastle-Swindon FA Cup tie in January 1988.

1993 – Jean-Jacques Eydelie, Marseille midfielder, is arrested for trying to bribe three Valenciennes players to lose a league match six days before the French champions beat Milan to win the European Champions Cup. General Manager, Jean-Pierre Bernes, is also charged. An envelope containing £30,000 is dug up in the garden of the mother-in-law of Valenciennes player, Christophe Robert.

1993 – UEFA bar Marseille from defending the European Cup over the Valenciennes bribery scandal.

1994 – Four directors and five referees accused by federal police of fraud for their alleged involvement in a Brazilian match-fixing case. The directors include Eduardo Viana, president of the Rio de Janeiro federation, and Eurico Miranda, a director of Vasco da Gama. Former referee, Reginaldo Mathias, claims match-fixing had been common since 1985.

1994 – Bernard Tapie is charged with corruption and ordered to quit as president of Marseille. He is later sentenced to two years in jail, with one suspended, for match-fixing.

1994 – Torino are placed under investigation by the Italian fraud squad after being accused of providing prostitutes for match officials in their attempt to win the 1992 UEFA Cup. The club are also alleged to have siphoned off under-the-counter cash from transfers, including £465,000 for the “phantom transfer” of Alessandro Palestro, son of a club secretary and not registered with the club, but studying at university.

1995 – Malaysian football is embroiled in a huge bribery scandal from the 1994 league season. Dozens of players are arrested, some are sent into internal exile. Australian-born Singapore international Abbas Saad is the first to be convicted and fined $36,000.

1995 – Southampton and former Liverpool goalkeeper, Bruce Grobbelaar, is accused by The Sun newspaper of accepting bribes to fix matches.

1999 – A Malaysian-based betting syndicate is caught attempting to install a remote-control device to sabotage the floodlights at English Premier League Charlton Athletic’s ground with the aid of a corrupt security officer. Investigations show the gang had been responsible for previously unsuspected “floodlight failures” at home matches of West Ham and Wimbledon in 1997.

2004 – In South Africa, 33 people (including 19 referees, club officials, a match commissioner and an official of the South African Football Association) are arrested on match-fixing charges.

2005 – Inquiries begin in France into match-fixing reports concerning two key games in the third division relegation battle in which Croix-de-Savoie beat first Roye and then Besancon.

2005 – In Germany referee Robert Hoyzer is jailed for two years five months (and then released on bail pending an appeal) for fixing matches in the second division and German cup. His chief accomplice, a Croat bar owner, is jailed.

2005 – Italian Serie B champions Genoa are relegated to bottom of the table and thus relegated for bribing opponents Venezia to lose the final match of the season. Genoa won 3-2 to apparently secure promotion to Serie A.

2005 – FIFA referee, E­lson Pereira de Carvalho, and colleague, Paulo Jose Danelon, are found to have accepted bribes to fix matches in the Brazilian championship. Eleven matches are ordered to be replayed, and E­lson is banned for life.

2005 – In Portugal 26 officials, including nine referees are charged in the “golden whistle” inquiry into match-fixing in the top two divisions.

2006 – Two former Slovak top division referees – Lubomir Pucek, and Jiri Vodicka, are fined €2,700 each for offering and accepting a bribe to ensure that Dukla Banska Bystrica beat Puchov on November 29, 2003. Dukla won 3-0. Both have appealed against the verdict.

2006 – Dinh The Nam, one of Vietnam’s top coaches, admits bribing a referee £300 before his club Hai Phong’s crucial V-League match against Dong Thap. The referee, Le Van Tu, is already in prison accused of fixing an earlier match for Dong A.

2006 – Belgian football becomes embroiled in a major match-fixing inquiry involving Lierse, La Louviere and one other club. The inquiry is linked with match-fixing accusations involving the Finnish club, Alianssi.

2006 – Phone-tap transcripts in Italy, recorded originally during a football doping investigation, raise potentially the biggest corruption scandal in Italian football history – centering on Juventus and general manager, Luciano Moggi, plus referees, other club presidents and officials.

This article first appeared on the AIPS website, which is carrying continuing coverage of the Italian football scandal. Click here for more