The biggest football scandals of all time

Date published: Thursday 21st April 2016 2:01

The words ‘scandal’ and ‘football’ have seemingly been synonymous with one another since the game’s beginnings.

These scandals range from affairs with teammates’ wives, to political tie-ins, to match-fixing by greedy players and punters. And even though you think we’d be used to controversy in football by now, the latest scandal never ceases to grab headlines (and our attention).

Obviously the biggest controversy in the headlines of late is that of FIFA, but let’s take a look at some other notable football scandals from the recent past that may have gone forgotten already.

2011 Turkish Match Fixing Scandal

In July 2011, 61 individuals were arrested after a Turkish police investigation revealed that up to 19 recent football matches, including the 2010-11 Turkish Cup Final, had been fixed or otherwise manipulated. The accused individuals included several managers, Turkish National Team players, and Besiktas JK president Yıldırım Demirören.

After several years of appeals and court proceedings, several of these individuals were given bans from football for varying periods of time, and penalties were also doled out to five involved clubs. Namely, UEFA banned Fenerbahce from European competition for two seasons along with a five-year probationary period, and Besiktas was banned from the Europa League for the following season.


Andres Escobar

After helping his club Atletico Nacional win the 1989 Copa Libertadores, young Andres Escobar was considered a rising star in Colombian football and quickly became a national team regular. The defender was named captain to the Cafeteros 1994 World Cup squad, where Colombia was considered one of the favorites to lift the trophy.

Andres Escobar own goal

However, the tournament didn’t go as planned, with Colombia finishing last in their group and failing to advance to the knockout round. That was in part due to the result of their second match,  against host United States, who Escobar helped give a first half lead to with an own goal. Just five days after the match back in Colombia, Escobar got into an argument  in a nightclub parking lot and was shot and killed, with the shooter reportedly yelling “Gol!”. The killer was sentenced to 43 years, although he was released after just 11 on “good behavior”.


Richard Keys and Andy Gray

Ahead of her second Premier League match running the line, assistant referee Sian-Massey Ellis was not welcomed to the top flight in such nice fashion by Sky Sports broadcasters Andy Gray and Richard Keys. Off-air audio recordings that went public revealed Gray and Keys making sexist comments about Massey-Ellis’ role in the December 2010 Wolves-Liverpool match they were all working that day.

Gray and Keys could be heard criticizing Massey-Ellis’ involvement, saying that somebody should “get down there and explain offside to her”, that “the game has gone mad”, and repeatedly referring to her as “poppet”. After similar sexist off-air incidences were revealed, Gray’s contract was terminated and Keys resigned from his position.


French National Team Prostitution Scandal

In April 2010, a French TV station reported that French national team players Franck Ribery, Sidney Govou, Hatem Ben Arfa, and Karim Benzema allegedly were clients of an underage and transgender prostitution ring and were under investigation.

The allegations on Benzema and Ribery claimed that they had sex with a prostitute that was only 16 or 17 years old (prostitution is legal in France only if the worker is over 18), and that Ribery had flown her to Munich as a birthday present for himself. The pair faced penalties of up to three years in prisons and a max $55,000 fine, but because the worker in question (now-model and fashion designer Zahia Dehar) told clients that she was 18, the charges were eventually dropped.


How Has This Affected The Sports Betting Market?

You’d think that with all these scandals, no-one would want to bet on football any more – if it’s that corrupt, then surely a bet isn’t worth it or fair? Kevin Horridge, editor at UK, has this to say: “Whilst football scandals are obviously bad for both the sport and gambling industry, it’s important to remember they represent a tiny minority of football games worldwide. The sport is a multi-million pound industry and therefore it’s in the regulators interest to crack down on these things hard. As for the sports betting market, it’s still huge and thriving. We’re finding more and more UK punters are getting involved in online betting, particularly with the rise of mobile and tablet betting apps.”

And on to your final one…

Escândalo do Apito (The Whistle Scandal)

In 2005 it was discovered that FIFA referee Edílson Pereira de Carvalho was given a mere $4,400 by “investors” to fix the result of a Brazillian Série A match between Juventude and Figueirens. That would be the tip of the iceberg however, as Carvalho was found to have fixed eleven matches in total (being paid between $2800-$4200 USD per match) in order to repay a debt of his.

Even though Carvahlo claimed that all of the matches were not actually fixed, Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled that the results of all 11 were to be annulled and then replayed, an unpopular decision. Due to the results of the replayed matches, Corinthians gained four additional points and ended up winning the league title over Internacional.

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