Thursday, September 9, 2010
ESPNsoccernet: October 27, 1:23 PM UK
Stings in the tale
Robin Hackett and John Brewin
With shock newspaper revelations currently providing many of the headlines in the world of sport, ESPNsoccernet selects a list of the First XI media stings.
Match-fixing scandal (1964)
We live in times where match-fixing is rearing its ugly head far too often in sport. English football is yet to be infected or at least exposed, but 1964 saw three leading players banned from the game for life after Sunday People journalist Mike Gabbert exposed a betting ring led by former Everton and Charlton player Jimmy Gauld. Peter Swan, David "Bronco" Layne and Tony Kay were found guilty of making sure that Sheffield Wednesday lost 2-0 to Ipswich Town in December 1962. All three received prison sentences. Swan and Kay were both England internationals who would have been expected to feature at the 1966 World Cup but were now lost to the game. Layne and Swann were allowed to return to playing in 1972.
Netherlands added a third unsuccessful World Cup final appearance this summer, but their unseemly defeat to Spain in South Africa was hardly a turn-up. By contrast, they had been firm favourites ahead their first final, against West Germany in 1974, as the 'total football' side of Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff sauntered through via wins over the likes of Argentina and Brazil.
As it turned out, they lost 2-1 to the West Germans, and the German newspaper Bild-Zeitung had done all it could to upset their preparations. Ahead of the game, a group of disrobed ladies apparently bathed with the players and Bild - which may or may not have set up the whole thing - claimed to have taken photos, running the story under the headline 'Cruyff, Sekt, nackte Madchen und ein kuhles Bad' ('Cruyff, Champagne, naked girls and a cool bath'). Cruyff was said to have spent hours on the phone to his wife the next day trying to explain the incident, and his brother Hennie later admitted that Johan played "like a dishrag" in the final.
Bruce Grobbelaar (1994)
Football's 'Clown Prince' of the 1980s was Zimbabwean goalie Grobbelaar, whose reputation was forever tarnished after allegations that he had fixed matches while a player at Liverpool and Southampton were broken by The Sun in November 1994. Journalists had obtained a video of him seemingly agreeing to throw a Saints match against his old club. Unwittingly, he was being filmed by former friend and one-time business partner Chris Vincent. A criminal case also implicating Wimbledon's John Fashanu and Hans Segers would eventually collapse before Grobbelaar sued The Sun, initially winning his case before the newspaper appealed. The case was finally taken to the House of Lords, where Grobbelaar was awarded just £1 in damages because he had no reputation left to defame, having in the video admitted taking bribes.
Freddy Shepherd and Douglas Hall (1998)
Relations between a club's fans and their board of directors are rarely too cordial. The invective is usually directed in a one-way fashion but, in 1998, Newcastle United directors and major shareholders Freddy Shepherd and Douglas Hall were caught with their pants down when the News of the World exposed their activities in an article entitled 'Vice girls shame of top soccer bosses'. The clearly overly-refreshed pair were taped dismissing their paying public as "mugs", Geordie ladies as "dogs" and club godhead Alan Shearer as "Mary Poppins" - all while in a brothel. Both were forced to resign from the PLC board, only for them to return just ten months later, Shepherd eventually becoming chairman, though not a popular one.
Chelsea Headhunters (1999)
The dunderheaded world of football hooliganism has always fascinated the mainstream media and even the dear old BBC got involved when they sent undercover reporter Donal MacIntyre into the teeth of the infamous 'Chelsea Headhunters'. The BBC programme, which remains cult viewing, saw MacIntyre go as far as to have a Chelsea tattoo, during which process he fainted. Eventually, after spending enough time with the likes of Jason Marriner and Andy 'Nightmare' Frain, he was able to gain sufficient evidence to get Marriner sent to prison for his part in organising a battle between rival groups of hooligans. MacIntyre, placed under police protection at the time, has recently been working as a newsreader of London local news, his career as an investigative reporter ended by too much recognition.
Stan Collymore (2004)
Stan Collymore, the Basic Instinct 2 actor and star of Stan Collymore: Confessions of a Premiership Footballer, suffered perhaps the most embarrassing sting of all when caught 'dogging'. Undercover Sun reporters Neil Syson and Lucy Hagan posed as man and wife in a car park and, as Collymore "prowled around for casual sex with strangers", he ended up sending Ms Hagan seductive texts.
Once his activities had been exposed, the paper says Collymore 'DETAILED the "etiquette" of the practice' and 'TOOK our undercover team on a tour of three more of his haunts near his home in Cannock, Staffs'. Read the full grubby account here.
Ismail Bhamjee (2006)
FIFA Executive Committee member Bhamjee, a former president of the Confederation of African Football and the Botswana FA, ended up getting kicked out of the 2006 World Cup by Sepp Blatter and co after the Mail on Sunday caught him selling black-market tickets to England games.
Bhamjee was actually rumbled because of a vigilant England fan, who ended up in conversation with him at a restaurant and agreed to buy the tickets to allow the Mail to expose him. A reporter went along to Bhamjee's hotel suite and agreed to pay three times the face value before handing over the evidence to FIFA. Accepting his punishment, Bhamjee denied involvement in ticket-touting and said: "I was at all times during the sale process under the impression that I was assisting and helping some unfortunate fans who were desperate to see their country play at the World Cup."
Sven-Goran Eriksson (2006)
One of a number of big scalps for the News of the World's 'fake sheikh' came as Sven-Goran Eriksson held a series of meetings in which, among often loose-lipped confessions, he said he'd leave England if they won the World Cup to take over at Aston Villa and sign David Beckham from Real Madrid as his new captain. He was also quoted as saying Rio Ferdinand was "lazy sometimes", Wayne Rooney had a temper as a result of his "poor family" and that managers "put money in their pocket" during transfers.
Several managers were implicated in the Undercover: Football's Dirty Secrets programme of 2006, which alleged that match-fixing was rife in English football. High-profile figures at several clubs - who by and large responded with threats to sue for libel - were the subject of furtive recordings, and agent Charles Collymore said: "There's managers out there who take bungs all day long. I would say to you comfortably there's six to eight managers we could definitely approach and they'd be up for this no problem."
Unfortunately, the big sting - whereby a Premier League manager was apparently set to accept a cash payment - fell through when the man in question failed to turn up, apparently scared off because Luton boss Mike Newell blew the whistle on corruption in football the same day.
John Terry (2009)
Terry has been involved in more than a few unhappy off-field media stories during the course of his career, but he was the subject of a classic News of the World sting in December last year when he was filmed offering to sell "private access to himself and his club through hush-hush £10,000 cash deals". In his defence, he did claim to be handing his share of the money to terminally ill children, and Chelsea came out to deny he'd done anything wrong.
Lord Triesman (2010)
Triesman was forced to stand down as Football Association chief and head of England's 2018 bid after the Mail on Sunday published his accusations - secretly recorded at a London restaurant - that Spain and Russia wanted to bribe referees at the 2010 World Cup.
Many responded to the story less than favourably, given the damage it could do to the World Cup bid and the fact he thought he was speaking in private, and former England star Gary Lineker quit his job as a columnist for the paper in protest after the paper refused to allow him to write a piece voicing his opposition to the sting. In his Still Dreaming book, Lineker wrote: "I have worked for newspapers who have run these kind of entrapment stories before, and while I have no objection to those which expose corruption or some other criminal activity, I felt this one crossed the line between fair game and foul play."