The recent arrest of six footballers in England for alleged match fixing has brought the subject into sharp focus in Scotland. Surely it could not happen here? The short answer is yes it could and yes it has.
The only known case to have figured in Scotland’s supreme criminal court – the High Court of Justiciary – occurred in 1952 when Joseph McCudden was convicted in Glasgow High Court of attempting to bribe players from Queen of the South and St Mirren into “throwing” matches.
McCudden was from High Blantyre and the owner of a successful bakery business. On 25th October 1951, he travelled to Dumfries in his Austin Sheerline car – described at the trial as an “expensive and luxurious” motor car and which was to figure significantly in the evidence.
There he met, by chance apparently, Queens’ centre half Sam Waldie whom he invited into his car where he offered him £250 to lose the next day’s game against East Fife in the old First Division.
An eagle-eyed Dumfries police officer, Inspector Kerr, had his attention drawn to this “luxurious” car in which he observed Waldie and McCudden engaged in “animated conversation.” It was suggested to Waldie that a couple of short passbacks to his goalkeeper, enabling the opposition to score, would do the trick. Queens were 2-0 up with 20 minutes to go but lost 3-2.
In evidence, Waldie claimed he had told McCudden “no deal” while admitting he had “had a bad game but that he was always trying”.
The St Mirren player approached by McCudden a couple of weeks later was another centre-half, Willie Telfer, a better-known player who would go on to win a cap in 1954 and play for Rangers.
McCudden, who was unknown to Telfer, called at the player’s house in Larkhall to ask him if he wanted to “make easy money” in the next day’s match against Partick Thistle. Concession of a penalty or an own goal in exchange for £200 was the proposition. Telfer refused and brought in the police as St Mirren went on to win the match.
McCudden, in his defence, accused both players of telling lies, but the jury thought differently. In sentencing him to nine months’ imprisonment, Lord Russell said “he had been found guilty of offences which, if they continue, will paralyse professional football in our country. This was the first time in the realm of sport that corruption has come before the High Court. Any future case would be much more severely dealt with.”
Back in 1924, two well-known players – John Browning, ex-Celtic and a Scottish cap, and Archie Kyle, ex-Rangers, were convicted in the lower courts of bribing a Bo’ness United player with £30 to “throw” an old Second Division match and sentenced to 60 days’ hard labour. In 1926 Donald Douglas from Falkirk was convicted of attempting to bribe the Stenhousemuir goalkeeper with £50. The ’keeper, according to reports, told Douglas to “go to a warm place”.
But perhaps the biggest match-fixing scandal in terms of the number of players and amount of money involved occurred in England in the early 1960s. The ringleader, however, was a Scottish player, Jimmy Gauld, who was born in Aberdeen in 1931 and joined the Dons as a youngster. Thereafter, he went on an odyssey in a career that initially held much promise – firstly to Irish side Waterford where he set an Irish League goals record, then on to Charlton from where he transferred to Everton for £10,500, a decent transfer fee then. After the Toffees he went down the leagues to Plymouth, Swindon and finally Mansfield.
He first came to notice in connection with match fixing in 1961 when, after an investigation into two games, all 12 punters involved waived their winnings apart from one – Gauld.
Bookmakers’ investigators described him as an “astute individual” while Alan Hardaker, the Football League secretary, suspected that “Gauld was not telling the truth”.
The rumour mill of extensive match fixing grew and grew until, on 12 April 1964 the People newspaper’s revelations that three top players were involved rocked the football world. They were Peter Swan, David “Bronco” Layne and Tony Kay, the first two being Sheffield Wednesday players with Kay having recently left them to join Everton. Swan and Kay were internationals. Layne was a prolific scorer whose career was flourishing and who was being tipped for a cap. But a chance meeting with Gauld, a former team-mate at Swindon, at a Mansfield match one winter’s evening in 1962 put paid to that possibility.
Gauld persuaded him to bribe his then Wednesday team-mates to “throw” their match at Ipswich on 1 December 1962.
Gauld had a wide network of contacts in the game which he used to build up an extensive betting ring, wagering on fixed matches. In so far as possible he kept the identities of players involved secret from one another.
After the 1961 incident, the People had been digging away into fixing and Gauld’s name was firmly on their radar. To secure their exclusive, they offered Gauld £7,000 to “lift the lid” on his accomplices. He agreed and with the aid of a concealed tape recorder, his associates implicated themselves one by one.
Prosecutions followed and in January 1965 at Nottingham Assizes the trio were sentenced to four months’ imprisonment. The FA banned them from football for life. Kay was then a potential member of the 1966 World Cup squad. Another seven players were imprisoned for periods between six and 15 months. Two Scots were among them, Dick Beattie, an ex-Celtic and Scotland Under-23 goalkeeper and Ken Thomson, ex-Stoke and Middlesbrough defender.
But the biggest sentence was handed down to Gauld who received four years. Judge Lawton said to him: “It is my duty to make it clear to all evil-minded people in all branches of sport that this is a serious crime. You are responsible for the ruin of players of distinction like Swan, Layne and Kay.”
Although ten players were sentenced, there is no doubt many more were involved, perhaps as many as 100. Little was heard of Jimmy Gauld afterwards. He died in London in 2004.
Match fixing is no respecter of national boundaries and there can be no room for complacency.