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  1. Corruption in Sports

    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

    Started in 1780, the Epsom Derby, England's premier horse race for three-year-olds, lures avid gamblers yearly. The 1844 Derby victor, Running Rein, is a "ringer" — a deceitful swap. Notorious gambler Abraham Levi, alias Abraham Goodman, orchestrates this infamous sports corruption. His scheme involves a robust four-year-old surpassing its competitors. Only prize fighting rivals horse racing in gambler interest, as cricket and football lack popularity at this time. This is an early instance of duplicity in professional sports.

  3. 1915: Gambling in English Football

    Seven footballers, three from Manchester United and four from Liverpool, face bans for betting on a match won 2-0 by Manchester. A decade earlier, player Billy Meredith (1874-1958) was suspended for a year for alleged bribery. Players earn around £1.50 weekly, tied to national wages. US baseball similarly has a restrictive "reserve clause" until 1975. Football, like baseball and boxing, straddles pro-amateur realms. Gambling, both legal and illicit, sustains public interest in these sports.

  4. 1919: Baseball’s Black Sox

    Chicago White Sox players are accused of 1919 World Series bribery, losing eight games to the Cincinnati Reds. Lifetime bans follow. The scandal erodes popular trust in fair play, prompting the creation of the commissioner role. Money's influence on honest competition is evident. The phrase, "Say it ain't so, Joe," is linked to Chicago player Shoeless Joe Jackson (1888-1951) confronting fix claims, somberly admitting fault to an idealistic boy.

  5. 1951: Point-Shaving in College Basketball

    Point-shaving involves manipulating game scores to favor specific betting margins. In 1951, City College of New York basketball players are charged with bribery for this purpose. Most US states declare sports betting illegal until 2018. Major scandals include 1981 (Boston College), 1985 (Tulane University), 1994 (Arizona State University) and 2003 (Northwestern University) — some lead to criminal charges. In 2007, point-shaving reports surface involving University of Toledo basketball and American football teams.

  6. 1957: Frankie Carbo and Boxing

    Carbo (1904-76) heads the International Boxing Club (IBC), a promoter masking organized crime ties. It manages top fighters, including Graziano, LaMotta and Gavilan. Linked to fixed fights and boxing figure deaths, Carbo's roots trace to Murder Inc. and bootlegging mobs. He entered boxing in 1933, post-Prohibition. A judge deems IBC a Sherman Act violation in 1957, leading to its dissolution. In 1961, Carbo receives a 25-year sentence for conspiracy and extortion, involving welterweight champ Don Jordan's earnings.

  7. 1964: Tony Kay and Football

    England's leading footballer, playing for Everton, faces rumors of conspiring to lose a game with two ex-teammates. In 1962, while at Sheffield Wednesday, Kay and two other players allegedly bet on their team's loss at Ipswich. Match-fixing rumors had persisted since the 1915 scandal. Kay (b. 1937) had 57 Everton appearances and one for England. Banned for life, later reduced to four years, he serves ten months of a four-year prison sentence. Some believe he was a scapegoat for a prevalent practice in English football.

  8. 1982–1995: Fixes and Bungs

    Italy, and to a lesser extent, England, experience football bribery scandals. In 1982, the Totonero scandal sees 50 bans placed on players and officials. Paolo Rossi (1956-2020) is implicated and initially banned, but then reprieved. In 1993, another Italian scandal uncovers top clubs in match-fixing, leading to high-profile convictions. In 1995, John Fashanu, Hans Segers and Bruce Grobbelaar are cleared of match-fixing. George Graham, a former player and manager of Arsenal, faces misconduct charges for accepting a "bung" in player transfers. He's suspended from football activities.

  9. 2000: Hansie Cronje and Cricket

    South Africa's cricket captain is banned for life for accepting $100,000 from bookmakers in a match against India in March 2000. Two players face suspensions. Less than two years later, Cronje (1969-2002) dies at 32 in a plane crash. Cricket match-fixing investigations persist until 2007. Cricket, historically considered a gentlemanly sport, is revealed to be plagued by match-fixing in the ensuing years, reaching a climax in 2010.

  10. 2002: Bribery and the Winter Olympics

    In 1995, Salt Lake City wins the 2002 Winter Olympics bid, but bribery is later exposed in securing the vote. IOC members face expulsion or resignation, prompting substantial reforms. Tokyo, awarded the 2020 event, sees renewed allegations. The former head of the Japanese Olympic Committee, along with others, faces arrests and corruption-related charges.

  11. 2004–2006: Italy’s Footballgate

    Calciopoli, known as "footballgate," encompasses a scandal implicating Italian clubs like Juventus, A.C. Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina, along with referees in the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 Serie A seasons. The affair involves match-fixing, bribery and other corrupt tactics to sway match outcomes. Juventus faces relegation to Serie B, loses two league titles and receives point deductions in the subsequent season. In 2023, the club is embroiled in another significant scandal, this time involving "false accounting." See also: 2011.

  12. 2007: Tim Donaghy and the NBA

    NBA referee Donaghy (b. 1967) is discovered to have bet on and provided inside information for games he officiated. He claims he is not alone, alleging other referees influenced outcomes. Donaghy manipulated calls affecting point spreads, predicting favored team victory margins. He serves 15 months in prison with three years supervised release. He maintains a low profile after his 2009 release. The case is dramatized in the 2019 film, Inside Game.

  13. 2010: Spot-Fixing in Cricket

    Pakistani cricket players Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir are found guilty of spot-fixing in a match against England at Lords Cricket Ground. Butt (b. 1984) receives a ten-year ban (five years suspended). Asif (b. 1982) is banned for seven years and Amir (b. 1992) for five. They also serve a combined four-year jail sentence. Spot-fixing involves manipulating specific moments in a game, like bowling a predetermined no-ball. This enables precise betting — for example, predicting a specific event in a specific over. Newer forms of sports betting soon gain popularity, including spread betting, fixed-odds betting and in-play betting, both online and offline.

  14. 2011: Andrea Masiello and Italian Football

    Italian prosecutors launch a probe into football betting, known as Calcioscommesse. Allegations emerge of collusion between players, coaches and officials with criminal groups to fix game results in Serie A, Serie B and lower leagues. Twenty-four players are charged for games played between 2008-2010. It stands as Italian football's largest match-fixing debacle. Andrea Masiello (b. 1986), former captain of Società Sportiva Calcio Bari, is implicated and receives a 22-month prison sentence along with a suspension.

  15. 2015: FIFA Corruption

    The FIFA bribery scandal emerges as an extensive case of corruption in sports, implicating several executives, including long-serving president Sepp Blatter (b. 1936). The U.S. Department of Justice files charges, leading to global investigations. Allegations center on the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments, won by Russia and Qatar. Convictions and plea deals follow, resulting in prison sentences, fines and penalties. Blatter faces embezzlement, conspiracy and forgery charges, receiving an eight-year FIFA ban, later reduced to six on appeal. In 2022, Blatter and ex-UEFA president Michel Platini are acquitted of fraud by a Swiss court, concluding one of the highest-profile investigations in football's history.

  16. 2017: Olympic Vote-Buying

    An inquiry into the Olympics organizing committee begins, probing potential conflicts of interest and embezzlement of public funds. Allegations of vote-buying surface, tied to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics (resurfacing in 2021 with the Tokyo Olympics). Vote-buying involves trying to sway IOC members' votes when awarding hosting rights and construction contracts. Another inquiry is initiated in 2022.

    Before 1976, cities competed to host the Olympics, but Montreal's staggering costs took 30 years to settle. Afterward, cities remained eager but more cautious. Some employed dubious methods — bribes, kickbacks, gifts — to win favor with decision-makers for Olympic bids.

  17. 2022: Boris Becker

    Boris Becker (b. 1967), once a Wimbledon champion at 17, faces a dramatic downfall. He is sentenced to two and a half years for failing to repay a €3.5 million ($3.7 million) loan. Despite earning about $25 million in prizes and endorsements, he breaches bankruptcy rules, including undisclosed property ownership and improper payments. Divorce settlements add to his financial woes, totaling around $13 million. Becker serves eight months of a 30-month prison term.

  18. 2023: Juventus

    Italian football club Juventus faces a 15-point deduction, later reinstated in an investigation centered on plusvalenze, or player trading profits. Other clubs are also implicated, but Juventus, owned by the influential Agnelli family, has a history of involvement in corruption scandals. Former employee Fabio Paratici (b. 1972) receives a 22-month global football ban for allegedly manipulating player exchanges to boost company revenues without actual monetary gains. In the 1980s and 1990s, Serie A was among the world's wealthiest leagues, with players earning top salaries. However, by 2023, Italian football accrues a staggering €5.3 billion in debt.

  19. 2023: Snooker

    Ten Chinese snooker professionals are charged with match-fixing, primarily related to betting on the World Snooker Tour. Liang Wenbo and Li Hang receive lifetime bans while eight others face suspensions up to five years. A decade earlier in 2013, British player Stephen Lee was banned for 12 years for seven counts of match-fixing. The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) determined that Lee intentionally lost matches for personal or others' gain.

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