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The recent publicity regarding the newspaper sting carried out upon the Pakistan cricket team during their test match against England and the ensuing debate over the completion of the test match between the two countries has led EJH to wonder why, when something similar happened in football, no action whatsoever was taken.
These are the things that people do not know.
They do not know because they are not told.
“Vince” Hilaire Belloc
There is, as you may have struggled not to know these last few days, a certain amount of media and public interest in “spot-fixing”, specifically as regards certain members of the Pakistan cricket team and their agent. The allegations against these men are, of course, both unproven and the subject of a police investigation. They will not, therefore, be the direct subject of this article.
What I would prefer to write about, instead, this being a football site, is the incident that came into my head almost as soon as I head about the cricket allegations, not long after close of play at Lord’s on Saturday. What came to mind was Matt Le Tissier’s confession, last year, to having done exactly what Mohammed Amir et al are presently accused of.
As widely reported, Le Tissier admitted, in his autobiography, that he had seen fit to bet on a throw-in taking place early in a game at Selhurst Park in 1995. If that event had happened early enough, it would have won him and his associates up to 56 times their sizeable stake. So, when Southampton kicked off and he received a pass, he tried to hit the ball straight into touch – only to underhit it and see it kept in by his teammate, Neil Shipperley, who was unaware of the scam.
This being a spread-bet, where losses were theoretically unlimited, Shipperley’s interception constituted a potential disaster: “I have never run so much in my life….suddenly it was no longer a question of winning money. We stood to lose a lot of cash if it went much longer than 75 seconds before the ball went out. I had visions of a guy coming to kneecap me.” As the Mail put it, Le Tissier admits to “charging around the pitch desperately trying to put it out”, which behaviour may not of course have seemed unusual to anybody watching football at Wimbledon.
Le Tissier wrote: “I couldn’t see a problem with making a few quid on the time of the first throw-in”, but insisted, “obviously I’d never have done anything that might have affected the outcome of the match”. Obviously not, but what interests me about his justification is – as with several aspects of the scam – how it reflects the one presently being claimed to have occurred at Lord’s. Early no-ball: early throw-in. No real impact on the game. So nothing to worry about. Nobody’s letting anybody down. One can imagine similar things being said to cricketers in hotel rooms and dressing-rooms: and by them.
At which point I would like to write: “as with the cricket, revelations of Le Tissier’s involvement in a scam provoked widespread controversy, police investigation and internal investigation by the football authorities which led to prominent figures being banned from the game”. Except that they didn’t. The controversy was small and short-lived, as was the police investigation, which was called off after discussions with the Crown Prosecution Service. In turn, the FA dropped their own investigation. Le Tissier retains a high-profile job as a pundit with Soccer Saturday, for a television station which shares its owner with the News Of The World.
Yes of course, the situations are very different in some ways. We are talking about an incident which had occurred fourteen years before. No current player was the subject of any allegations. There were no suspicions of any other misconduct by the people involved, nor was there a history of such allegations to be taken into account. The player confessed of his own free will. All these things are pertinent. Yet even so, there is something unsatisfactory about the ease with which the Le Tissier scandal was allowed to drop.
Partly, there is the absence of scandal, the apparent unwillingness of the authorities, the media or the great football-following public to perceive that anything bad had really happened. To me this sits uncomfortably alongside the justified outrage, the call for bans and investigations, which surround the Pakistan cricket team following the allegations. But more substantially, what bothers me is that nobody took the opportunity of Le Tissier’s revelations to do what has rightly been demanded in the world of cricket, which is to find out how widespread this sort of cheating is.
Betting is no harder today than it was in 1995. Footballers are not less interested in money. Human beings are not less foolish. So – in the fifteen years since a panicking Matt Le Tissier rushed around Plough Lane, how many other professional footballers have been involved in similar scams? How many games have been affected by people trying, unobtrusively, to make themselves a little pot of money? None? It’s possible. Hundreds? That’s possible too. The Matt Le Tissier confession was an opportunity to try and find out. One that wasn’t taken.
Perhaps, because Selhurst Park was so very long ago. Perhaps, because Matt Le Tisser was such a nice chap who gave such service to the only club he played for. Or perhaps because nobody really wanted to ask the question. Nobody wanted to find out the answer.
These are the things that people do not know. They do not know because they are not told.
Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
There is another football angle to this.
The alleged fixer is also the owner of Croydon Athletic FC ,last year’s Isthmian league div 1 south champions.
I’m sure questions will be asked about their financing. Especially as it turns out their previous owner is now doing time for embezzlement.
Athletic could be in a spot of bother.
I smell another Twohundredpercent article ,the way only you can do it!
There was a realisation at the time that spread betting broke out that quite a few teams were kicking the ball straight out of play to win the “first throw in” spread bet, so the FA changed the rules on betting (I’m assuming the Le Tissier incident was around the same time). At the time, it wasn’t against the rules, as the only thing that was against FA rules was that you couldn’t bet against yourself (as Bronco Layne, Tony Kay and Peter Swan found out). After the realisation of the “first throw in” bets, the rules where changed so that you couldn’t bet in any game you were involved in. So while it may have been illegal, it wasn’t against the footballing rules of the time.
“How many games have been affected by people trying, unobtrusively, to make themselves a little pot of money?”
I can think of another one, in the early 90s (and again, not against footballing rules, but possibly illegal, so I won’t name names), where a Fourth Division side had changed their recognised penalty taker, to a young defender who was getting his first real run in the side. The player concerned was the regular taker for the reserves, and had been for the youth team, and had never missed, so the decision was made from a sporting point of view. However, the bookies wouldn’t be expecting this player to be a likely goalscorer, so he was around 40/1 to be the first goalscorer. He and his team-mates decided to take advantage of this, and as luck would have it were awarded an early penalty.
The team bragged about it in the local press, but nothing ever happened to them in terms of repercussions.
Great piece, I’ve been arguing this since the story broke.
PS. Heard the one about the fast bowler and the wicketkeeper who bet on their own team to lose at 500-1? Guess what, their team lost a match that was almost impossible to lose.
Imagine if they had been Pakistani.
This is no defence of the Pakistan players. It’s a call for balanced reporting.
Good point made by Danc – maybe if the player concerned had been someone other than Matt Le Tissier – a generally popular figure for most football fans outside Portsmouth, and instead been a foreign player, then the media frenzy would probably have been considerably greater.
With Matt Le Tissier, as he puts it, “charging around the pitch” I can’t believe suspicions weren’t aroused by such unusual behaviour at the time.
[…] Why doesn’t match fixing scandals in football get the same scrutiny as in cricket? [twohundredpercent] […]
The two incidents are not alike. Le Tissier was not trying to throw the match in question, albeit he could have inadvertently done so. The cricket no-balls incidents did not lose Pakistan a match, but they were not betting on no-balls. This was merely an entry fee ‘taster’ – to demonstrate that the fixers had influence on the team.
The penalty story is interesting. I see no problem with someone betting on themselves, and whilst there appears to be an element of “insider trading” about this, bookies should have access to reserve team scoring records (they are easily available on the web, or through the club). So all this highlights is that bookies are sometimes lazy in their research. As long as the info is available to all, it is fair.
I agree that the no-balls thing was probably a “prover” to show that influence existed, with no doubt a huge bet to follow on something else.
Le Tissier is a legend. His confession is silly and done to sell a book. Presumably video footage of the match exists – I suggest someone watches it to make sure it is actually true! Thing is, if the story is accurate then this was one somewhat unique player trying something out. It was not outside influences, which would be more of a concern as it would suggest something more widespread.
What Le Tiss has failed to realise is that the criminal act is not murdering someone – it is trying to murder someone. The fact his plan failed in laughable fashion does not lessen his intent, and therefore his lack of ethics.
I am wondering when Pete Rose will get a mention…..
Presumably video footage of the match exists
I wouldn’t necessarily make that assumption – a lot of things were different in 1995.