With match-fixing very much in the news in recent months, MARK GODFREY looks back at English football’s most famous betting scandal 50 years ago.
Alf Ramsey was grateful for the result. Twenty games into the season and his reigning English champions found themselves in the bottom three. The winter of 1962-63 was bleak for Ipswich Town; and not just for the record breaking freeze that would bring the sporting calendar to a three month stand-still and virtually cripple the whole of the United Kingdom.
The 2-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday at Portman Road on December 1st 1962 was unremarkable in most respects. The Owls were mid table and had the kind of away record that adequately demonstrated that. Ramsey’s team, albeit in a precarious position, still had pedigree and would have been fancied to collect the much needed two points for the victory.
However, this routine First Division fixture wasn’t as straightforward as would first appear.
Jimmy Gauld was the archetypal journeyman. His 13 years as a player were ended by a broken leg in 1961 after numerous brief spells with clubs spanning from the Highland League in Scotland to lower league clubs in England; a solitary season with Everton being the pinnacle of an otherwise non-descript footballing career.
After retirement, the Scotsman became the instigator (and eventual snitch) of the first widespread match-fixing scandal to be uncovered in English football.
Corruption was nothing new. By 1964, professionalism had been in existence for nigh on 80 years. Indeed, in 1915, Manchester United and Liverpool players had colluded to manipulate the result of a single game between the two clubs for financial gain. One would have to be incredibly naïve to suppose that the 1960’s affair was the first ever occurrence of larger scale bribery in the British game.
As the austerity of the Fifties melted away and the Sixties began to swing, the maximum wage for footballers in England was abolished in 1961. More money began to sluice into the game and everyone wanted a slice.
To fix the outcome of an English league match, the recently-retired Gauld would need help on the inside. He turned to a former Swindon Town team mate, David Layne.
By late 1962, Layne had moved back to his hometown of Sheffield to play for the Owls, scoring 58 goals in just 81 appearances and was making quite a name for himself alongside England international centre half, Peter Swan, and the up-and-coming star of the First Division, Tony Kay.
Gauld and Layne plotted; the target would be the game at Portman Road - one which Wednesday were ‘likely’ to lose. They duly obliged, going down to two goals by Ipswich’s Ray Crawford. In a 2006 interview with The Times newspaper, Swan claimed, “We lost the game fair and square, but I still don’t know what I’d have done if we’d been winning. It would have been easy for me to give away a penalty or even score an own goal. Who knows?”
He knew. So did Layne and Kay. The money was down and the result was never in doubt.
The three Sheffield Wednesday insiders took the 2/1 for an Ipswich win and invested £50 each; the safest of bets. Lead conspirator, Gauld, stood to win considerably more than the £150 to be won by Layne, Swan and Kay.
With a successful first attempt in the bag, Gauld and his betting syndicate moved on to their next target – a game between Bradford Park Avenue and Bristol Rovers on April 20th 1963. Another contact of Gauld’s, Brian Phillips of Mansfield Town, recruited Rovers players, Esmond Million and Keith Williams, to aid in the illegal money speculation.
But rumours were beginning to circulate that many matches in the lower divisions were being targeted by the fixers. Mike Gabbert and Peter Campling of the Sunday People newspaper chased the story.
In August 1963, Ken Thomson of Hartlepools United was exposed for having helped fix one of his club’s fixtures against Exeter City earlier that year. Just one week later, Gauld was named by the same paper as being the mastermind behind the whole affair.
With the knowledge that the jig was now up, Gauld, with the incentive of a £7000 payout by the People, finally gave up his secrets in a taped conversation with Gabbert and Campling in 1964. More names and more games came to light that demonstrated just how far Gauld had infiltrated dressing rooms up and down the land.
Ten former and current players faced trial in Nottingham in January 1965. Gauld, as ringleader, received the longest sentence – 4 years. The other nine were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 15 months to four. Layne and in particular Swan and Kay were the ‘big’ names to be exposed in the betting scandal and as such, would be made an example of.
Swan had already won 19 caps for England and was considered to be first choice for the national team alongside Bobby Moore at the heart of England’s defence. His time at Her Majesty’s pleasure combined with the lifetime ban he received (later successfully repealed in 1972) robbed Swan of the best years of his footballing life. It’s widely believed that he would have been a key member of Alf Ramsey’s 1966 World Cup squad rather than Leeds United’s Jack Charlton.
Just weeks after his involvement in the fixed game at Ipswich in 1962 (for which he was ironically named Man of the Match), Kay moved from Hillsborough to Goodison Park for a record fee between British clubs of £60,000 and won a league championship medal in 1963 with Everton. Like Swan, most observers considered him to be a shoe-in for England’s squad for the 1966 World Cup. His ban likely also robbed him of more domestic honours with the Toffees as they won the FA Cup and another league title during his period in exile. Despite being allowed to play again after 1972, he never played professional football again.
In the 1960’s players wages were still relatively low. The temptation to make a little extra cash for that brand new ‘E’ Type Jag or television set must have been all too much for the likes of Kay and Swan – especially when the likelihood of being caught was minimal. However, they were caught, and their opportunity to be revered as heroes for all time rather than reviled as crooks went shamefully by the wayside.