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    By Ellis Cashmore

    Money is a gateway to transgression: once sports passed through the opening that separated amateurism from professionalism, it lost its innocence. Ellis Cashmore looks at sports’ dark side historically.

  2. 1844 The Epsom Derby Fraud

    First run in 1780, the Derby is England’s most prestigious horse race for three-year-olds and a major magnet for gamblers. The winner is Running Rein, but the horse is a “ringer” — a horse fraudulently substituted for another. The man behind what is not the first but is certainly the most scandalous instance of sports corruption is a well known gambler named Abraham Levi, sometimes known as Abraham Goodman. He plans a betting coup by entering a four-year-old horse, which is stronger and faster than its rivals. Only prize fighting attracts comparable numbers gamblers to horse racing. Cricket and association football are not yet popular sports. This is an early example of how professional sports propagate duplicity, deception and dishonesty.

  3. 1915 Gambling in English Football

    A total of seven footballers, three from Manchester United and four from Liverpool, are banned after gambling on the result of the game, won 2-0 by Manchester. Ten years before, player Billy Meredith (1874-1958) was suspended from playing for a year after allegedly trying to bribe another player to throw a game. Players typically earn 30-35 shillings — i.e. about £1.50 ($3 @ 1915 exchange rate) — per week and earnings are officially linked to the national average wages. Similarly, baseball in the US operates a “reserve clause,” a contractual provision that limits both the earnings potential and mobility of players; it is abolished in 1975. Association football, like baseball and boxing, is among the few professional sports in a largely amateur sports environment. Gambling, legal and illegal, helps maintain public interest in the sports.

  4. 1919 Baseball’s Black Sox

    Several Chicago White Sox baseball players are accused of accepting bribes from gamblers to lose the 1919 World Series. While favored, Chicago lose to the Cincinnati Reds in eight games. The players are banned from professional baseball for life. The fraudulence undermines faith in fair play in sport. The long term effects of the scandal include the creation of the position of commissioner and a realization that honest competition is never guaranteed when money is at stake. The fabled phrase "Say it ain't so, Joe" is attributed to a young idealistic boy who approaches the Chicago player Shoeless Joe Jackson (1888-1951), pleading for him to deny the fix. Jackson reportedly replies, "I'm afraid it is, kid.”

  5. 1951 Point-Shaving in College Basketball

    This refers to a type of fixing in which players or officials deliberately manipulate the score of a game to ensure that it falls within a certain margin, allowing gamblers to profit from betting on the outcome. In 1951, several City College of New York basketball players are charged with accepting bribes to affect the outcome of games. Sports betting is prohibited in the US and remains that way in most States until 2018. There are other major point-shaving scandals: in 1981, involving Boston College players; 1985, featuring Tulane University; 1994, featuring players at Arizona State University, and in 2003, with Northwestern University players implicated. Two of those cases would lead to criminal charges. In 2007, reports of point-shaving in both basketball and football involving University of Toledo teams surface.

  6. 1957 Frankie Carbo and Boxing

    Carbo (1904-76) is the head of the International Boxing Club (IBC), a boxing promoter that controls several top fighters, including marquee names Rocky Graziano, Jake LaMotta and Kid Gavilan. The IBC is basically a front for organized crime. Carbo is rumored to be behind many fixed fights and even the deaths of boxing figures who oppose him. His roots go back to the infamous Murder Inc., and before that to the bootlegging mobs of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He got involved in boxing after the end of the Prohibition in 1933. Eventually, a US district court judge rules that the IBC is a violation of the Sherman Act, which was designed to prevent anti-competitive business arrangements (like monopolies), and orders its dissolution in 1957. In 1961, Carbo is sentenced to 25 years after being convicted of conspiracy and extortion, the prosecutors charging that he tried to muscle in on the earnings of Don Jordan, a world welterweight champion.

  7. 1964 Tony Kay and Football

    England’s preeminent football player is playing for Everton when rumors of him and two former teammates conspiring to lose a game surface. In 1962, when playing for Sheffield Wednesday, Kay and two teammates are said to have placed bets on their own team to lose a game at Ipswich. There had been stories of match-fixing in English football since the scandal of 1915 (see previous slide). Kay (b. 1937) had played 57 games for Everton and one for the England national team when the bet was revealed. He is banned from professional football for life –— later reduced to four years. He is also sentenced to four years in prison and serves ten months. There is an assumption that he has been scapegoated for widespread practice in England’s association football.

  8. 1982-1995 Fixes and Bungs

    Association football in Italy and, to a lesser extent, England is embroiled in bribery. In 1982, an astonishing 50 bans are slapped on players and officials in a case known as Totonero — this being the name of an illegal form of gambling. Implicated is Paolo Rossi (1956-2020) who is banned and then reprieved. In 1993, another Italian football scandal reveals several top clubs enmeshed in match fixing and bribery, leading to several high-profile convictions. In 1995, England footballers John Fashanu, Hans Segers and Bruce Grobbelaar are cleared of match fixing after suspicions of wrongdoing, but George Graham, a former player and manager of Arsenal, is found guilty of misconduct and suspended from all football activity for accepting a “bung” — a bribe to facilitate a transfer of a player from one club to another.

  9. 2000 Hansie Cronje and Cricket

    South Africa’s Cricket Board bans the country’s captain for life after concluding he has accepted $100,000 from bookmakers to play poorly against India in March, 2000. Two other players are suspended. Less than two years later, Cronje (1969-2002) dies, age 32, when a light aircraft in which he is flying crashes. Investigations into match fixing in cricket continue till 2007. Historically, the English sport of gentlemen, cricket, over the next several years, will be exposed as a sport rife with match fixing, culminating in 2010.

  10. 2002 Bribery and the Winter Olympics

    In 1995, Salt Lake City, Utah, is awarded the Winter Olympics for 2002, but it is later revealed that officials had bribed International Olympic Committee (IOC) members to secure the bid. Several IOC members are expelled or resign, and the scandal leads to significant reforms within the IOC. Similar allegations resurface in later years relating to Tokyo, which is awarded the event in 2020: several individuals, including the former head of the Japanese Olympic Committee, are arrested or charged with corruption-related offenses.

  11. 2004-2006 Italy’s Footballgate

    Calciopoli – roughly translated as “footballgate” – is the name given to a scandal that involves several Italian football clubs, including Juventus, A.C. Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio, and Reggina, and referees in the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 seasons of Serie A. It is one of several corruption scandals in Italian football and involves allegations of match fixing, bribery, and other corrupt practices aimed at influencing the outcomes of matches in favor of certain teams. Juventus is relegated to Serie B, stripped of two league titles, and deducted points in the following season. It will feature in another major scandal, this time involving “false accounting” in 2023. See also 2011.

  12. 2007 Tim Donaghy and the NBA

    National Basketball Association referee Donaghy (b. 1967) is found to have bet on games he officiated and to have provided inside information to gamblers and bet on games. He tells federal investigators that he is not alone and several other referees deliberately influenced events on court for their own aims. Donaghy allegedly made calls during games that would impact the point spread, which is the predicted margin of victory for the favored team in a betting line. He is sentenced to 15 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Donaghy is released from prison in 2009 and, from then, keeps a low profile. A dramatization of the case was released in 2019, titled “Inside Game.”

  13. 2010 Spot-Fixing in Cricket

    Three Pakistani cricket players, Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif, and Mohammad Amir, are all found guilty of conspiring with a bookmaker to fix specific moments in a Pakistan-England match at Lords Cricket Ground, London. Butt (b. 1984) receives a ten-year ban, with five years suspended, while Asif (b. 1982) and Amir (b. 1992) are banned for seven and five years, respectively. In addition to the bans, the players are handed combined jail sentences totaling four years. Spot-fixing means fraudulently determining the outcome of specific parts of a game, such as bowling a no-ball in cricket at a predetermined moment that allows a bettor to place a bet with precision, e.g. “I bet there will be a no-ball bowled in the 30th over.” Around this time, there is an enthusiasm for newer forms of sports betting, including spread betting, fixed-odds betting and in-play betting, both online and in person.

  14. 2011 Andrea Masiello and Italian Football

    Italian prosecutors initiate an investigation into football betting, or Calcioscommesse after allegations that players, coaches, and other officials had conspired with criminal organizations to manipulate the outcomes of games in Serie A, Serie B, and lower-tier leagues. 24 players charged for games played during the 2008-2010 seasons. It was the biggest match-fixing scandal in Italian football history. Andrea Masiello (b. 1986), the former Società Sportiva Calcio Bari club captain, is among the players found guilty and suspended. He is sentenced to 22 months’ imprisonment.

  15. 2015 FIFA Corruption

    Arguably, the most serious and wide-ranging case of bribery and corruption in sport comes to light when an FBI investigation leads to the indictment of several executives of association football’s governing organization FIFA, including its long serving president Sepp Blatter (b. 1936). Charges are brought by the United States Department of Justice and several other countries also launched their own investigations. The allegation stems from the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments. Russia and Qatar are named as winning bidders. There are several convictions and plea deals. Some officials are being sentenced to prison, while others face fines and other penalties. Blatter is accused of embezzlement, conspiracy and forgery and is banned from football-related activities for eight years by FIFA. The ban is later reduced to six years on appeal. In 2022, Blatter and ex-UEFA president Michel Platini are acquitted of fraud by a Swiss court after one of the highest-profile criminal investigations in football’s history.

  16. 2017 Olympic Vote-Buying

    An inquiry targeting the Olympics organizing committee begins and involves allegations including potential conflicts of interest and embezzlement of public funds. Accusations of vote-buying linked to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics circulate (and will return in 2021, when similar accusations about the Tokyo Olympics surface). Vote-buying refers to a form of corruption in which individuals or organizations attempt to influence how IOC members vote when awarding hosting rights to bidders and contracts to firms responsible for building infrastructure for the games. A further inquiry launches in 2022.

    Prior to 1976, cities vied for the rights to stage the Olympics. But the prodigious costs left Montreal with a debit that took 30-years to clear. After that, cities were more circumspect but still keen to attract the Olympics, by fair means or foul: bribes, kickbacks, gifts, or other forms of illicit benefits were offered to the decision-makers in exchange for their support.

  17. 2022 Boris Becker

    After one of the most extraordinary celebrity falls from grace, Becker (b. 1967) is sentenced to two and a half years after being unable to repay a €3.5m ($3.7m) loan. A winner of the 1985 men’s single title at Wimbledon when 17, Becker boasts an illustrious competitive career, winning about $25m in prize money alone, without including endorsement earnings. But a British jury finds that the former tennis star breached bankruptcy rules four times, notably by failing to declare that he owned the house where his mother lives and by making personal payments of €427,000 from a business account. Becker had also faced other financial troubles, including a divorce settlement with his ex-wife, which reportedly cost him around $13 million. Becker serves eight months of a 30-month prison sentence.

  18. 2023 Juventus

    Juventus, the Italian football club, is punished with a 15-point deduction, which is later reinstated during an investigation into plusvalenze, which effectively means profits on the trading of players, or capital gains. There are other clubs implicated, but Juventus is certainly involved and it is only the latest of several corruption scandals in which the Turin club, owned by the wealthy and influential Agnelli family, has been involved (see 2004-2006, above). The club’s one time employee Fabio Paratici (b. 1972) is banned from football worldwide for 22 months, accused of systematically using player exchanges to increase the revenues of the company without actually receiving any money. In the 1980s and 1990s, Italy’s Serie A was one of the richest leagues in the world and players earned top salaries. By 2023, the accumulated debts of Italian football stands at €5.3bn.

  19. 2023 Snooker

    Ten Chinese snooker professionals face match-fixing charges, most stemming from betting on the World Snooker Tour circuit. Liang Wenbo and Li Hang are barred for life and eight others are suspended for up to five years. Ten years earlier, in 2013, British player Stephen Lee was banned for 12 years after being found guilty of seven charges of match-fixing. The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) finds that Lee had deliberately lost matches in order to benefit himself or others.

  20. Credits Written by Ellis Cashmore
    Produced by Atul Singh
    Art and design by Lokendra Singh
    Images courtesy of Shutterstock and Creative Commons