The 1964 British Betting Scandal

[Get Exclusive Tips on our Patreon, Ad-Free

The 1964 British Betting Scandal was a match fixing scandal that involved ten professional soccer players playing the then English Football League. The scandal was instigated and later exposed in full by Jimmy Gauld, who had played for a number of teams in the English league. When the scandal eventually came to light, ten players were found culpable and they faced severe sanctions including bans and imprisonment.

`Background to the 1964 British Betting Scandal

After a 13 year career with various Scottish and English teams, Jimmy Gauld had retired from football in 1961 due to a leg injury. A brief spell with Everton was the highlight of his career but it is outside the field of play that he would make the biggest waves. Corruption in association football was not a new thing, with some famous scandals having rocked the game as early as 1915. Gauld was drawn into the vortex and influenced by a betting syndicate. He sought to make some quick cash by influencing the results of matches.

His first target was a game between Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town. Ipswich were the defending champions of the English League but they had they had now found themselves languishing in the bottom three during the 1962 season. Wednesday meanwhile were in mid-table but were having a tough time in their away fixtures.

For this reason Ipswich were considered the favorites for the game. In order to fix the game, Gauld would need to enlist some inside helpand he approached Sheffield’s David Layne, with whom they had played together at Swindon Town. Layne in turn brought in teammates Tony Kay and Peter Swan. They targeted the game at Portman Raod and Wednesday lost the game 2-0. The three Sheffield players each bet on a 2-1 win for Ipswich and won $150 each.

The next target for Gauld and his syndicate was a game between Bradford Park Avenue and Bristol Rovers on April 20th 1963. This time he recruited Brian Phillips of Mansfield Town as well as Keith Williams and Esmond Million of Bristol Rovers. However rumors had begun to circulate regarding match fixing in lower leagues.

The two journalists from the Sunday People, Mike Gabbert and Peter Campling began investigating the rumors and in August 1963, they exposed Ken Thomson of Hartlepools United for helping to fix a fixture between his team and Exeter City earlier in the year. The duo would then name Gauld as the mastermind of the whole affair.

Aware that the jig was up, Gauld sought to make an extra kill and decided to come out clean on the whole affair in exchange for $7000. He gave a tell-it-all interview to Gabbert and Campling in 1964 and the taped conversation would be a crucial piece of evidence in the subsequent trials. He exposed more players involved in fixing additional matches, demonstrating that Gauld’s scheme was much more extensive than was initially thought.

The aftermath of the 1964 British Betting Scandal

In January 1965, ten players including Gauld faced trial. Gauld being the ringleader was handed a 4-year sentence while the others were sentenced to between four and fifteen months. A total of 33 players had faced trial for the scandal. Swan, Layne and Kay were considered the other big wigs of the scandal and were handed life bans from the sport by the Football Association.

Other players implicated in the scandal include Sammy Chapman of Mansfield Town, Ron Howells of Wasall FC, Jack Fountain of York City, and York City’s Brian Phillips. Besides the prison sentences they were handed life bans. At the time of the ban, Swan and Bobby Moore were well on the way to representing England in the 1966 World Cup. Following a change to the rules by the FA in 1971, Phillips, Layne and Swan successfully appealed their bans but by then they were well past their prime and they did not make any contribution of note to their teams.

After the scandal the FA looked into ways to sanitize the game and prevent a repeat of such a scandal. This led to the removal of the players’ salary cap, in the hope that it would remove the temptation to cheat for a few extra bucks. Today, the English league offers some of the best salaries of any team sport in the world. The 1997 film ‘The Fix’ which aired on BBC One was a dramatization of the scandal.