Sports Betting Scandals: Sports betting is big business. The European Gaming and Betting Association reported that regulated sports betting accounted for $58billion in 2012. This is around 14% of the total gross gambling yield of $430billion – equivalent to the GDP of a fair-sized country such as Kazakhstan.
With so much money being staked with bookmakers around the world it’s inevitable that there have been instances when sports stars have been approached by nefarious characters to fix results. Here are ten of the worst sports betting scandals to have hit world sport.
Sports Betting Scandal: The “Black Sox”
The “Black Sox” Sports Betting Scandal: In 1919 members of the Chicago White Sox baseball team were accused of conspiring to throw the World Series against the Cincinatti Reds. While all eight players who were accused were acquitted in court, they were all banned from life from baseball.
Despite being one of the better paid teams in baseball in those times, the majority of players of the 1919 Chicago White Sox squad disliked the stinginess of owner Charles Corniskey. In an era where players were poorly paid and players unions were non-existent, the owner held all the cards. Under the “reserve clause”, any player who refused a contract could be prohibited from playing for any other team.
The situation was ripe for a fix – and despite a big split in the camp between the “Clean Sox” who wouldn’t contemplate throwing a game and the so-called “Black Sox” who would, various players met in a hotel room in September 1919 to discuss throwing the World Series. While none of the eight players who supposedly met in that room were ever convicted of throwing a game, it would shatter all of their careers.
The rumours were intense even before the series started – odds on the Reds winning had dropped significantly and in the press box various correspondents resolved to compare notes on contentious plays. The Reds took the best-of-nine series in Game 8 after pitcher “Lefty” Williams threw mediocre pitches, giving up three runs in the first innings having been threatened pre-game by a notorious gangster to ensure the defeat.
All eight players involved were acquitted in court after key evidence when missing from the courthouse; however pitcher Eddie Cicotte, center fielder “Happy” Felsch, first baseman “Chick” Gandil, star outfielder “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, infielder Fred McMullin, shortstop “Swede” Risberg, third baseman “Buck” Weaver along with Williams were all banned from baseball for life, along with St Louis Browns second baseman Joe Gedeon who had heard about the fix from Risberg.
For Jackson it was especially hard. He had led the batting averages in the series and had hit the White Sox’ only home run. His lifetime batting average of .356 is the third-best in MLB history and years later it emerged from the other conspirators that Jackson had not been involved at all. Even now there are campaigns to have Jackson’s eligibility to the National Baseball Hall of Fame reinstated with even the US House of Representatives urging the MLB to think twice. As yet, they have not changed their mind.
European Sports Betting Scandal 2009
UEFA revealed European Sports Betting Scandal in March 2009 that they were bringing charges of match-fixing against an unnamed club – later revealed to be Macedonian side FK Pobeda. They were found guilty of fixing a tie with Armenian side Pyunik in 2004 and were banned for eight years from European competition while club president Aleksandar Zabrcanec and former captain Nikolce Zdravevski were given lifetime European football bans. As a result, UEFA president Michel Platini said that 27,000 fixtures would be monitored in the 2009-10 season.
In November 2009 a series of raids were conducted across Europe as around 200 fixtures came under the spotlight with match-fixing allegations. Croatians Ante, Cirko and Milan Sapina were at the center of the investigation in Germany. The fraud was discovered after various organised crime activities had their telephones tapped and on 25 November 2009 five clubs were under investigation by UEFA – KF Tirana, FC Dinaburg, KS Vilaznia, NK IB Ljubljana, and Budapest Honved.
Sports Betting Scandal: Hansie Cronje
Hansie Cronje Sports Betting Scandal: The cricket world was rocked when police in Delhi revealed on April 7, 2000 that they had recorded a conversation between South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje and Sanjay Chawla, a representative of an Indian betting syndicate had been recorded having a conversation involving match-fixing.
Although Cronje initially denied any wrongdoing, he was sacked four days later after confessing that he had not been “entirely honest”, admitting accepting money from a London-based bookmaker for “forecasting” results rather than outright fixing.
Two months later Cronje came clean. He released a statement revealing the depth of his contact with bookmakers and how much money he had taken from them in return for fixing results. In October Cronje was banned from cricket-related activities for life; a ban he tried and failed to get overturned in 2001.
Cronje’s life ended in tragedy in 2002 when the plane he was a sole passenger in crashed into the Outeniqua mountains in South Africa. He was just 32. Rumours surfaced that he was murdered on the orders of a cricket-betting syndicate but there has never been any evidence that was the case.
Sports Betting Scandal: “Lights Out”
One of the strangest sports betting scandals scams that have ever surfaced came to public attention in August 1999 with the conviction of businessman Wai Yuen Liu in south London.
Liu had connections to Triad crime syndicates and was part of a “professional and well-thought-out” plot to target Charlton Athletic’s football ground in a betting scam. The idea was simple; betting syndicates can make substantial profits if a match is abandoned when the scorelines are favourable.
Liu, along with two Malaysians had arranged to plant a “circuit breaker” at the ground on 10 February having paid off a Charlton security guard. The circuit breaker would allow them to sabotage the floodlights by remote control in the game between Charlton and Liverpool FC three days later but were caught in the act. They’d already tried to fix games at Upton Park between West Ham and Crystal Palace, and as Selhurst Park where Wimbledon were playing Arsenal.
The four men received sentences of between 18 months and four years for their involvement in the plot.
Sports Betting Scandal: Robert Hoyzer
German football was rocked by revelations of a €2million match-fixing scandal centered on 2.Bundesliga referee Robert Hoyzer, who confessed to betting and fixing matches in the 2.Bundesliga, the DFB-Pokal and the Regionalliga.
The sports betting scandal emerged after four referees went to the DFB with their suspicions about matches Hoyzer had officiated. Initially, the DFB didn’t act on those suspicions but after he became aware that he had been accused Hoyzer stepped down from his position as referee.
It emerged that Hoyzer had been having regular meetings in Berlin with a Croatian gambling syndicate who were linked to an organised crime group. Following his confession to the authorities, various players were put under surveillance and in 2005 a number of people were arrested in connection to the scandal. Thirteen matches were investigated as part of the probe.
Hoyzer was banned for life from football and he was sentenced to two years and five months in prison on six counts of fraud.
Sports Betting Scandal: The Fake Sheik
The Fake Sheik sports betting scandals in August 2010, investigative reporter for the Sun newspaper Mazher Mahmood, who was posing as a rich Arabic sheik met with sports agent Mazhar Majeed to arrange spot-fixing in the upcoming test match between England and Pakistan.
Video footage shows that as Majeed was counting out the bribe money, he “predicted” that Pakistan fast bowler Mohammed Amir would bowl the third over of the upcoming match and that the first ball of the match would be a no-ball – which indeed came to pass in almost ludicrous circumstances due its obviousness.
Majeed also successfully “predicted” that the sixth delivery of the tenth over (to be delivered by Mohammed Asif) would be a no-ball.
Despite allegations of set-up and protestations of innocence, Asif, Amir and Pakistan captain Salman Butt were all found guilty of spot-fixing and were banned; Butt for ten years (five of which were suspended), Asif for seven years (two suspended) and Amir for five years. Following criminal investigations and court cases Butt was jailed for 30 months, Asif for 12 months, Amir for six months while Majeed was hit with a sentence of two years and eight months.
Reporter Mahmood has also had his fair share of controversy and will stand trial for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in a separate “sting” operation.
Sports Betting Scandal: Tim Donaghy
Basketball fans woke up with sports betting scandal in July 2007 to the news that the FBI were investigating allegations of an NBA referee betting on games. As other news agencies picked up on it the name of Tim Donaghy emerged as the official under investigation, claiming he had been betting on games for two years and that he had links to organised crime.
Donaghy stayed home to avoid the press, moving to a secure location to dodge media scrutiny as the NBA Commissioner David Stern held a press conference, confirming while this was an isolated case that no amount of effort was being spared to bring the disgraced referee to justice. Donaghy surrendered to the police on August 15 and pleaded guilty to two felony charges of conspiracy. He told judges he had used coded language to tip off others about the physical condition of players, receiving $30,000 in total.
Donaghy alleged in a statement that several series in the NBA playoffs had been improperly refereed; although no game was explicitly referred two of them are widely believed to be Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference series between the LA Lakers and the Sacramento Kings, and the 2005 NBA Playoff series between the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks.
Handicapper Brendon Lang told ESPN that despite the NBA’s insistence that Donaghy was a “rogue official”, that it was fairly easy for a crooked referee to directly influence a game. He also stated his belief that a bookmaker connected with the Mafia turned Donaghy in to the FBI.
Admitting he had brought shame on himself, his family and his profession, Donaghy was sentenced to 15 months in prison and three years supervised release.
Turkish Sports Corruption Scandal
In the summer of 2011, Turkish Police started an investigation into allegations ofmatch fixing with 19 football matches suspected of being targeted by fixers. By July 10, 61 individuals had been arrested including various club managers and players.
Around the same time, Istanbul BB player İbrahim Akın admitted to participating in match fixing – specifically relating to two matches: Istanbul’s match against Fenerbahçe and the Turkish Cup Final against Besiktaş. Following his arrest Akın recanted, claiming he had given his confession under duress and that he had been tricked.
The outcome was heavy for Turkish football; Fenerbahçe were banned from the 2011-12 Champions League with Trabzonspor replacing them and were banned from European competition for a further two years by UEFA in 2013. Besiktaş received a one year ban from European football over the allegations.
Akın was banned from football for three years for his role in match-fixing; Serdar Kulbilge of Gençlerberliği was banned for two years for attempting to fix a game between his side and Fenerbahçe.
Sports Betting Scandal: Pete Rose
By all rights, Pete Rose should be an all-time baseball hero. In a 23 year playing career he averaged .303 with the bat, and the all time MLB leader in hits (4,256), games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053) and singles (3,215). He won three World Series rings, three batting titles, one MVP award, two Gold Gloves, Rookie of the Year and 17 all-star appearances in an unequaled five fielding positions.
However, in 1989, three years after he retired as an active player Rose agreed to permanent ineligiblity from the baseball after allegations emerged he had bet on games while playing and managing the Cincinatti Reds, including betting on his own team. However, Rose denied the allegations for 15 years until finally admitting in 2004 he had bet on – but not against – his own team.
A report into Rose’s betting habits alleged that he had bet a minimum of $10,000 a day on 52 Reds games in 1987. Rose denied these allegations and refused to appear at a hearing regarding the matter. In accepting the permanent place on the ineligibity list, the MLB agreed to make no formal finding against Rose, who commenced therapy for a gambling addiction.
Rose has since campaigned for reinstatement, with a decision expected by the end of 2015 following a meeting between Pete Rose and baseball commissioner Rob Manfred.
Sports Betting Scandal in Greek Football
In April 2015 a 173 page report prepared by prosecutor Aristidis Korreasemerged which alleged Olympiakos FC owner Evangelos Marinakis along with Greek Football Federation members Theodoros Kouridis and George Sarriswere suspected of directing a criminal organisation since 2011 to “absolutely control Greek football’s fate by methods of blackmailing and fraud”.
Greek football was already in a maelstrom in 2011 due to the Koriopolis sports betting scandal. Marinakis, Kouridis, Sarris and two others met in Athens in December to support Sarris’ election to the presidency of the Greek Football Federation in the upcoming election with the aim of controlling it.
In early 2012 three of the conspirators met referee Petros Konstantineas, demanding he favoured Olympiakos in their upcoming clash with Xanthi. Konstantineas, to his credit said no – Xanthi won the resultant game and a month later Marinakis ordered unknown people to bomb a bakery owned by Konstanineas, causing its demolition.
The conspiracy expanded to take in matches played by other teams including Platanias FC, a club under the influence of Olympiakos along with Tyranovos 2005. Riots involving hardcore Olympiakos hooligans were allegedly instigated by the conspirators to influence decision making on the field. Compliant referees were ordered to referee matches as to the favour of the conspirators as they tightened their grip on Greek football.
Since the report was published, Marinakis was arrested and forced to step down from Olympiakos. Criminal cases are currently underway against various members of the conspiracy and even UEFA has been linked to complicity as it emerged their integrity officer for the HFF hadn’t given full details to the UEFA ethics and disciplinary inspector.
For more info: Wikipedia