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The history of match-fixing

With recent cases of match-fixing in Turkey, Italy, China and Spain, it’s tempting to think of it as a modern curse. In fact, it’s as old as the hills and isn’t always driven by shady far-eastern gangsters.

Manchester United v Liverpool (1915)

Bitter rivals? Not on Good Friday of 1915 they weren’t. In fact, Liverpool couldn’t have been more co-operative.

With United battling relegation and Liverpool in mid-table, bookies were offering 7-1 on a 2-0 win for the home side.

And with the war threatening to shut down the league, thus ending the players’ wages, it proved a temptation too far. Led by United and former ‘Pool player Jackie Sheldon, seven players from both sides decided to carve up the game.

Throughout the match, Liverpool’s performance was marked by a peculiar lack of commitment, even down to the penalty they blazed over the bar. There was also an odd incident where Liverpool players remonstrated furiously with team-mate Fred Pagnam for taking a shot at goal.

It later transpired that Pagnam refused to take part and threatened to ruin the bet – he would eventually testify against his team-mates in court.

All seven were banned for life, but the bans were lifted in 1919 in recognition of the men’s service in the War.

Argentina v Peru (1978)

Needing to beat Peru at least 4-0 to see off Brazil and advance to the final, the host nation were up 2-0 at half-time.

Peru – who had one of the best defences in the competition – then mysteriously fell apart, conceding four more goals to give the Argies a 6-0 win.

Nothing was ever proved, but the YouTube footage is, well, dubious. Peru’s keeper Ramon Quiroga (who was born in Argentina) makes no attempt to save any of the shots, while the number of defenders in the box is usually around two – and they are standing about with hands on hips.

Then there was the fact that Argentinean authorities delayed the kick-off until after Brazil’s game for ‘security’ reasons.

FIFA took no action, until…

West Germany v Austria (1982)

Variously called the ‘Anschluss’ (link-up), ‘Nichtangriffspakt von Gijón’ (Non-aggression pact of Gijón) and the Schande von Gijón (Shame of Gijón), Germany v Austria was a World Cup match so obviously fixed that it would force the rules to be changed forever.

The match was the last game in Group 2 with Algeria havinh beaten Chile 3-2 the day before. By the time they kicked off, Germany and Austria knew that a 1-0 win for the Germans would put both of them through at Algeria’s expense.

What followed was a craven carve-up. Germany scored after ten minutes and for the remainder of the match, both sides passed the ball around in their own half, refusing to tackle or attack whilst jeers and whistles rained from the stands.

Furious Algerians waved bank notes at the players, while the Austrian commentator downed tools and urged viewers to switch off their TVs.

Although the result stood, FIFA decreed that the final group games should thereafter kick off at the same time.

By Chris Dunlavy, The Football League Paper


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