The Biggest Sports Betting Scandals in History
We all like to see sport as the ultimate in fair competition, where above all else, sportsmen always give everything to win while staying within the boundaries of agreed-upon rules.
But when we take the rose-tinted spectacles off, we know full well that rule-breaking and scandal has gone hand-in-hand with many sports for time immemorial.
Unsurprisingly, one of the main forms of cheating is betting scandals, as the chance to make a few quid by throwing a match has been too tempting for many an athlete.
Nowadays, online uk bookies websites are great at catching the scammers, but over the years, that has not always been the case.
Here are some of the top sports betting scandals of all-time.
2010 Pakistan Cricket Spot-Fixing Scandal
The reputation of cricket – one of honesty, sportsmanship and fair play – was thrown into disrepute at the turn of the last decade thanks to a scandal involving players from one of the sport’s top national teams.
In 2010, undercover reporters from the British newspaper the News of the World secretly filmed bookmaker and agent Mazhar Majeed claiming that spot-fixing would take place in the following day’s test match between England and Pakistan.
Spot-fixing, unlike match-fixing, is where just one element of a sporting contest is fixed, rather than the whole match or event.
According to Majeed, Pakistan bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif would do this by bowling no-balls at specific points of the match.
A no-ball in cricket is essentially an illegal delivery, it must be bowled again and earns the batting team an extra run. The most common example of a no-ball is where the bowler oversteps his bowling crease, bowling too close to the batter.
This, at the exact points in the match that Majeed had claimed, is precisely what Amir and Asif did, thus winning large bets for those in on the scandal, of which a percentage would go to the two bowlers and their captain, Salman Butt.
Thanks to the News of the World, the three cricketers and Majeed were arrested, charged and given varying prison sentences ranging from six months to two years and eight months. Lengthy bans handed out by the International Cricket Council effectively ended the international careers of Butt and Asif, while Amir returned in 2015 and played until 2020.
The scandal had thrown the results of so many other matches into doubt and stained the most gentlemanly of sports – it “just wasn’t cricket!”.
The 1919 Black Sox Scandal
For perhaps the most notorious scandal in the history of American sport, we have to go back over a century.
Long before the Super Bowl and the NBA Championship Game, Baseball’s World Series was the undisputed king of stateside sporting events.
So, the idea of clouding the showpiece would be a difficult pill to swallow not just for baseball fans but the entire American nation.
But that’s exactly what the Chicago White Sox did back in 1919, when they met the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series.
At the time, players had to get the permission of their team’s owners to have a chance at signing for a new team, while they had little say in their contract negotiations.
Therefore, contracts remained modest, which often saw players link up with gamblers and bookmakers to match-fix in an attempt to earn a few extra bucks. Nonetheless, nothing on the scale of the 1919 World Series had been attempted before or since.
The White Sox were the clear favourites for the title, but odds were shortening on the Reds thanks to some unusually large bets from those in the know, which only led to more punters gambling on Cincinnati as they got the impression a fix was imminent.
Accounts differ on how the conspiracy came into being, with some believing first pitcher Chick Gandil and gambler Joseph Sullivan met a few weeks prior to devise the scheme, with others blaming crime boss Arnold Rothstein.
The Reds won the series 5-3 and eight Chicago players, thereon dubbed the “Black Sox”, were charged with conspiracy.
The eight were acquitted in 1921, but they were all banned from playing professional baseball again.
Believed to be cursed by the scandal, the White Sox didn’t win another World Series until 2005.
1982 Flockton Grey Scandal
No sport is more synonymous with betting than horse racing, and where there is plenty of betting, there’s plenty of scandals.
One of the most notorious was that of Flockton Grey, a horse owned by Ken Richardson, who, in 1982, was entered in his first race at Leicester, England.
His trainer, Stephen Wiles, had not trained a winner for two years. That, plus his unexciting lineage, made him a 10/1 shot in a race for fellow two-year-olds.
Imagine the shock of the crowd when Flockton Grey sprinted away from the competition to win by twenty lengths!
There was only one problem; it wasn’t Flockton Grey!
Such a shock was the win, that bookmakers refused to pay out and a police investigation was called.
When photos of the race were analysed, it was concluded that the horse’s teeth were too developed to be those of a two-year-old and, in fact, a much stronger, more experienced three-year-old named Good Hand had actually run in place of Flockton Grey.
Good Hand was formerly owned by Richardson; he and Wiles arranged to swap the horses and bet £20,000 on the win, spread across various bookmakers to avoid suspicion.
The problem was, it went too well. Had the horse won by only a few lengths they probably would have got away with it.
The jockey, Kevin Darley, was completely unaware of the switch, as the owner and trainer kept the secret to themselves, yet, this was arguably their downfall, as had Darley known, he could have slowed Good Hand down.
Richardson was fined and given a suspended prison sentence, while both received lengthy bans from involvement in horse racing. Flockton Grey never entered a race; probably the most famous racehorse who never ran.