With more money than ever being wagered on sports through the internet, gamblers around the world attempt to gain an edge on the house by any means necessary. In recent years, gambling syndicates have found success by altering the very action that is taking place on the field of play. These syndicates realized that the fringes of professional sports are vulnerable for exploitations because officials and athletes are frequently underpaid. However, these groups have also found success infiltrating the biggest sports leagues in the world—including scandals at the highest level of competition.
These events have shaken sports loved around the world to their very core. Some of these scandals have involved a highly secretive network of fixers and their associates who convince athletes and officials to fix the outcome of events. Even something as small as influencing a particular event during a game can be made incredibly profitable thanks to the advent of in-game voting and an expanded field of proposition bets. Spot fixing is the next wave in match fixing that is just now beginning to rear its ugly head, making some question the decisions made by referees and even the players themselves.
In spite of the looming threat of harsh punishment, which can involve jail time and lifetime bans from their sport, these scandals continue to happen. The incentive is there for individuals to influence the outcome of games and governing bodies are for the most part powerless to prevent it. Every competition relies upon the principal that all parties involved are giving their best effort on game day. When this doesn’t happen, it degrades the integrity of the institution of sports, allowing greed to triumph over professionalism and purity of competition. These scandals remain a stain on their respective games.
15 Indian Premier League Cricket Fixing
Cricket is no stranger to controversy, but the Indian Premier League was still shocked by the 2013 spot fixing scandal involving the Rajasthan Royals. According to ESPN, three Royal players, Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila, and Ankeet Chavan were arrested for spot fixing along with 23 others by Delhi police. The trio was believed to be under the influence of gambling associates Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Shakeel. Chavan and Sreesanth were eventually released along with others due to lack of evidence. Despite these links and contact with bookies, many avoided punishment due to lack of coordination between investigating authorities.
14 Stephen Lee’s Snooker Ban
Despite possessing one of the most unique talents in sport and having won over £2 million in career earnings, Stephen Lee still became involved in match fixing. Lee is regarded as one of the best snooker players in the world, but his involvement in match fixing came when suspicious betting patterns surrounded his matches. After an initial investigation revealed no wrongdoing, Lee was suspended when his suspicious play continued. According to The Mirror, an independent tribunal revealed that Lee had influenced the outcome of seven different matches in 2008 and 2009, which led to a 12-year ban that will make him eligible for return in 2024.
13 Totonero Scandal
The reputation for corruption in Italian soccer comes from the Totonero Scandal, which ravaged the football-crazy nation in 1980. The Totonero scandal involved more than 30 Serie A and Serie B players accepting bribes from Roman businessmen Massimo Cruciano and Alvaro Trinca. Totonero refers to the system of underground bookmaking that takes place in Italy and was exploited by Trinca and Cruciano for their gain. Their match fixing involved players from Lazio, AC Milan, Bologna, Palermo and several others, with Milan and Lazio both being relegated to Serie B as punishment. Paolo Rossi was banned for two years, but returned in time to help Italy win the 1982 World Cup in Spain.
12 Hansie Cronje
Hansie Cronje was one of the most beloved cricketers in South African history before his involvement in a match fixing scandal was made public in 2000. A conversation between Cronje and a representative for an international betting syndicate, Sanjay Chawla, was released by Delhi police. Several other players were also implicated in the scandal and Cronje initially maintained his innocence before breaking under the cross examination during trial, according to ESPN. Cronje was eventually given a lifetime ban from the sport for his involvement in the scandal and died in 2002 in a plane crash. Conspiracy theories continue to circulate regarding the circumstances involved in the plane crash.
11 Nigeria Takes Match Fixing to the Extreme
The Nigerian Football Association handed down several lifetime bans for one of the most blatant match fixing scandals ever carried out. Plateau United Feeders and Police Machine were both on the brink of promotion prior to their respective matches with Akurba FC and Babayaro FC. However, their victories came into question when Plateau United Feeders won 79-0 and Police Machine won 67-0, with the vast majority of the goals being scored in the second half of those matches. As a result of this ridiculous match fixing, all four teams and the match officials from these matches were given lifetime bans.
10 Nikolay Davydenko
Nikolay Davydenko is a professional tennis player that spent the majority of his career on the fringes of the Association of Tennis Professionals world tour. Despite this, he has finished in the top four of several major events, losing out on three of those occasions to Roger Federer. Davydenko’s match fixing scandal involved his ATP Tour match with Martin Vassallo Arguello, where despite winning the first set, Davydenko withdrew with a foot injury in the third set. Suspicious betting patterns were identified by Betfair, according to SportsOnEarth.com, who revealed several unknown individuals in Russia had profited greatly from Davydenko’s loss. As a result all bets on the match were suspended and a one-year inquiry was launched by ATP. Davydenko also has mysterious circumstances involving other matches in his career and announced his retirement in 2014.
9 Robert Hoyzer Fixes Bundesliga Matches
German football was rocked in 2005 when it was revealed that Second Division referee Robert Hoyzer was involved in a €2 million match fixing scandal that spanned several competitions. Hoyzer was accused of fixing several matches in the Second and Third Division as well as a match in the DFB Pokal. Hoyzer awarded controversial penalties and sent off players for dissent to influence these outcomes, including a match between Paderborn and Hamburg, which saw two controversial penalties and a red card. The scandal shook up the country just prior to Germany hosting the 2006 World Cup. Hoyzer was sentenced to more then two years in jail for his involvement according to BBC, while several other players and officials also received bans for their participation.
8 Pakistan Cricket Spot Fixing
In 2010, the cricket world was shocked to find that the Pakistani National Team had been spot fixing specific events in a test cricket match for the benefit of betters. Mazhar Majeed, an agent and bookmaker, was at the center of the scandal and recorded on video saying he could influence specific outcomes on certain balls. Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir, and Salman Butt were all found guilty of being involved and landed lengthy bans from cricket in addition to jail terms. The story was uncovered thanks to some hidden camera work by News of the World.
7 Olympique Marseille Match Fixing
The careful planning and empire building of Bernard Tapie was squandered with selfishness and greed, while Olympique de Marseille was fresh off of winning the 1993 UEFA Champions League. Marseille had a triumphant season with their fourth consecutive Ligue 1 title and the French Cup, but it was all undone with a stupid attempted bribe of several Valenciennes players. The Valenciennes players were approached by a Marseille official and a player revealed to be Jean-Jacques Eydelie, with an offer to throw their upcoming match and avoid injury to Marseille players, according to The Independent. Marseille were eventually relegated to Second Division and Tapie was ousted when additional financial irregularities were revealed.
6 Boston College Point Shaving
College basketball is a prime environment for behavior like point shaving because the veil of amateurism can be exploited by greedy individuals with connections. The Boston College point shaving scandal was orchestrated by Rocco and Tony Perla who convinced Rick Kuhn and eventually Jim Sweeney to join their scheme. Kuhn, Perla, and Sweeney would conspire to keep games Boston College was heavily favored in from covering the spread. Eventually, the scandal came into the FBI’s attention thanks to the involvement of Henry Hill. In total, according to ESPN, nine games were influenced and Hill’s testimony led to the indictment of the Perla Brothers and Kuhn in addition to Hill’s associates James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke and Paul Mazzei.
5 Tim Donaghy
The National Basketball Association has not been immune to the creeping influence of organized crime on its sport. The Tim Donaghy scandal displayed just how vulnerable and relatively inexpensive it could be to influence the outcome of professional basketball games. Donaghy was an NBA referee and used his information and position, while betting on the very NBA games he was in charge of officiating. Investigative reporting revealed that games where Donaghy officiated typically resulted in higher scoring games and a trend of ten straight games with suspicious betting close to game time. Donaghy eventually served 15 months in prison, according to ESPN, and three years of supervised probation for his involvement in the scandal.
4 CCNY Beavers
The City College of New York Beavers triumphed in the 1950 NCAA Tournament and followed it up with a National Invitational Tournament victory over Bradley. The following year, seven men, including three members of the Beavers, were arrested in connection to a conspiracy to fix games. Eventually, seven schools were implicated in the scandal, including the University of Kentucky and their star Bill Spivey, who lost his Most Outstanding Player Award after his involvement in point shaving was revealed. 33 players in total were involved and the scandal prevented another NCAA Tournament game from being played at Madison Square Garden until 2014.
3 2006 Calciopoli Scandal
The Calciopoli scandal swept Italy’s Serie A in 2006 and had a devastating effect on the league, with consequences lasting for several seasons. The scandal involved top clubs in the country influencing the appointment of officials to their respective matches in an effort to influence the outcome. Several of Italy’s biggest clubs were involved including Juventus, Lazio, Fiorentina, who were all eventually relegated to Serie B and given points deduction for their roles in the scandal. AC Milan was also implicated in the scandal, but only received a 15-point reduction and a ban from the UEFA Champions League. Juventus had two of their league titles stripped as an additional punishment, but the club has managed to recover in recent years to become a dominant force in the league.
2 West Germany vs. Austria 1982 World Cup
Match fixing can even influence the world’s biggest sporting event, the World Cup. Heading into their final group stage fixture, Germany knew they would require a victory to advance after a shocking 2-1 defeat at the hands of Algeria. Algeria had won their final match against Chile, but a 1-0 Germany win would still see them bounced from the World Cup in favor of Austria. From the first kick, Germany attacked furiously and found their goal after ten minutes thanks to Horst Hrubesch. However, following the goal both teams sat back and played a stifling brand of stalemate football that produced no more goals. Despite a formal protest from the Algerian Football Association, no rules had been broken, although in future competitions, the final matches of group stage fixtures are played simultaneously.
1 Black Sox Scandal
The 1919 World Series was lost intentionally by the Chicago White Sox in one of the most controversial and consequential scandals in American history. Factions within the clubhouse were divided, but virtually all were in agreement that White Sox players were underpaid by team owner Charles Comiskey. The illness of the straight-laced pitcher Red Faber made it possible for gamblers like James “Sporty” Sullivan to pay eight White Sox players to throw the series. This culminated in Eddie Cicotte hitting a batsman with his second pitch, serving as a prearranged signal that the fix was in.
Even before the series was finished, rumors of the fix circulated the nation. After the nation bet heavily in favor of Cincinnati to win, the White Sox would lose the nine game series in eight games, completing the fix. One year later during the grand jury investigation, Joe Jackson and Eddie Cicotte confessed to their roles in the scandal. In total, eight White Sox players were banned for life from baseball although they all managed to avoid jail time. The team became known as the “Black Sox” and the name has become synonymous with the scandal since.