In Depth

Sports betting scandals

Amid reports of suspicious soccer matches around the globe, here's a look at match-fixing and point-shaving scandals involving players and officials in other sports.
Canadian Steve Nash, seen while with the Phoenix Suns, argues in a 2006 game with NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who would be disgraced a year later in a betting scandal the league insisted involved only one rogue official. (Jeff Lewis/Associated Press)

Europol, the European Union's joint police body, reported Monday that it had found examples of nearly 700 soccer games around the globe whose results seemed suspicious.

The scope aside, the allegations of match fixing were unsurprising, as the low-scoring nature and ubiquity of soccer around the globe make it an easier target than other team sports. Even the non-glamorous Canadian Soccer League has been affected by fixers, as revealed in a CBC News investigation.

Serie A in Italy has been particularly rocked by scandals over the past decade. In "Calciopoli," clubs Lazio, Fiorentina, A.C. Milan and, most seriously, Juventus were penalized after recorded conversations between club and the referee's office were brought to light. Juventus was stripped of their previous two league championships. In the past two years, 2002 World Cup team member Cristiano Doni and several other players were censured, with bans from one to five years handed out.

Here's a snapshot of match-fixing and point-shaving scandals in other sports, with an emphasis on players and officials on the inside:


Pete Rose denied betting on baseball while a manager of the Cincinnati Reds for 14 years, or until an autobiography he stood to profit from was released in 2003. Four years later, he told a radio show he bet on the Reds every night. That wasn't quite true — a report Major League Baseball commissioned years earlier indicated that Rose laid off his team depending on the starting pitcher. It also showed he had a dreadful conversion rate, losing thousands on games. In any event, none of his recent admissions have changed the fact that he is on baseball's ineligible list, which also serves to keep the game's all-time hit leader out of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Shoeless Joe Jackson, Chick Gandil and six others from the heavily favoured Chicago White Sox took part in a scheme coordinated with underworld figures to throw the 1919 World Series against Cincinnati. The scandal came to light a year later, with all banned from baseball for life. Shoeless became the face of the scandal for confessing, even though he hit .375 in the series and by most accounts wasn't the most involved of the players in the gambit.


Veteran refereee Tim Donaghy was sentenced to 15 months in jail in 2007 for betting on NBA games and providing inside information on player injuries and ref tendencies to a pair of acquaintances. He alleged that another official was very selective in his foul calls in Game 6 of a 2002 playoff series, ensuring a seventh and deciding game. The NBA vigorously denied that claim.

Arguably the most famous basketball player involved in a modern scandal, John "Hot Rod" Williams of Tulane University faced two trials as part of charges of point shaving in 1984-85, a scheme in which four players allegedly pocketed hundreds for ensuring the correct point spread result. After a mistrial the first time out, the second proceeding resulted in a not guilty verdict. The district attorney overseeing the investigation was Harry Connick, father of the singer/actor. Hundreds of dollars cost Williams untold thousands, as he slid to late in the second round in the draft, although he went on to a successful 14-year NBA career.


Before a Senate hearing in 1960, after the statute of limitations on prosecution had run out, Jake LaMotta admitted he took a dive in a 1947 stoppage loss against Billy Fox in order to secure an eventual shot at the middleweight title. It wasn't a shock; legendary New York Times writer Arthur Daley in his review of the year's sporting events called it a "fragrant" fight. The odds for the bout went from the iron-chinned LaMotta's favour to prohibitively for Fox.

LaMotta said he didn't know who was behind the play, claiming his brother was the intermediary. It contradicted a signed deposition stating that it was Fox's people, mobsters Blinky Palermo and Frankie Carbo. Palermo and Carbo were eventually sent away for several years on charges of conspiracy and extortion.


The NHL was rocked by a pair of scandals in the 1940s. Babe Pratt of the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Hart Trophy in 1943-44, but two years laters was ensnared when a gambling ring was brought down. He admitted to betting on NHL games not involving his own team, and ultimately missed only nine games before being reinstated. He was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1966.

Productive players Don Gallinger and Billy Taylor of the Boston Bruins didn't get off as easy after betting on several of their team's games. League president Clarence Campbell banished them from the league in 1947-48 for life, although the punishment was commuted in 1970.

Horse racing

The sport has seen everything from ringer jockeys and horses posing as supposed amateurs, to computer-savvy frat brothers committing an inside job by altering Pick Six bets in the system used nationally in the U.S. Things are currently topsy turvy Down Under, where top jockey Damien Oliver admitted to betting, through an intermediary, on Miss Octopussy, a rival jockey's horse.


Badminton teams from South Korea (two of them), Indonesia and China were banned from the 2012 London Olympics when it became obvious they were looking to lose to ensure a matchup perceived to be more favourable in the next round.

The real crime of the banned players was stepping over the line of obviousness in a scenario that has existed in many Olympic and world championship tournaments. Eventual gold medal hockey winners Sweden barely skated around that line when they were blanked 3-0 in their final round-robin game in 2006 by Slovakia. The game had a funny smell, as Sweden failed to score on a 5-on-3 power play but gained an elimination round matchup against Switzerland instead of Russia (who had beaten them 5-0 earlier in the draw) or Canada. Years later, Peter Forsberg admitted some team members discussed ensuring the more favourable path, which led to the predictable round of wagon-circling and "lost in translation" claims from other Swedes.


Online bookmaker Betfair voided all wagers after what was deemed to be irregular patterns following a 2007 match in which top player Nikolay Davydenko pulled out with an injury midway against unheralded Martin Arguello. The site reported over $7 million had been wagered on the ho-hum match at the Poland Open, more than twice as much as other hauls for that day's court action. Davydenko was cleared, although attempts by authorities to seize cell phone records from the player and his brother were thwarted.

Serbian player David Savic and Austrian Daniel Koellerer, marginal names on the tour, both received lifetime bans in separate cases in recent years for betting on matches.