A list of the biggest match-fixing scandals in sports history

A list of the biggest match-fixing scandals in sports history

Helix Odhiambo
updated at April 12, 2023 at 8:20 PM

Over the years, many people have attempted to influence the outcome of games by bribing players, coaches, referees, and those involved in running sports. Match-fixing has a long history of over 100 years. Some of the biggest match-fixing scandals took place in football, basketball, cricket, and baseball.

Biggest match-fixing scandals in cricket
Pakistani cricket fans in Lahore on 4 November 2011 following the arrest of their players over match-fixing allegations in Britain. Photo: Arif Ali
Source: Getty Images

Despite the heavy match-fixing punishments imposed on those found guilty, the scandals continue to happen. Those involved in such schemes usually receive fines, banishment from sports, or even jail time. We, therefore, dig into some of the famous match-fixing scandals that tarnished the image of sports.

Biggest match-fixing scandals - top 10

Many scandals in sports involved criminal gangs, gamblers, and even the mafia. Here are some of the match-fixing examples that shocked the universe and the punishments imposed on them.

10. Nikolay Davydenko - Intentionally losing an ATP match

Biggest match fixing scandals in football
Nikolay Davydenko during a press conference ahead of the 2006 Masters Tennis Cup Shanghai in Shanghai, China on 11 November 2006. He was once found guilty of influencing games. Photo: Osports
Source: Getty Images

Nikolay is a Ukrainian-born Russian and former tennis player, who had great success in his career. He once ranked third in the single in November 2006. However, he lost his reputation after several incidences of match-fixing.

During an ATP Tour match against Martin Arguello, Davydenko withdrew with a foot injury in the third set and lost the game despite winning the first set.

9. Robert Hoyzer (referee) - Fixing Bundesliga matches

Famous match-fixing scandal
Robert Hoyzer leaves court after receiving a two-year and five-month sentence on 17 November 2005. He was found guilty of taking payments to manipulate games as a referee. Photo: Andreas Rentz
Source: Getty Images

In 2005, the former German referee was involved in a multi-million dollar scandal for influencing several games. Hoyzer was accused of awarding controversial penalties and sending off players in the second and third divisions in Germany. He was sentenced to over two years in jail for his involvement, and also banned for life by the German Football Association (DFB).

8. Pakistan - Test cricket scandal

Match-fixing punishment
England's players shake hands with the Pakistan batsmen (in green) at the end of the 5th NatWest ODI at The Rose Bowl on 22 September 2010 in Southampton, England. Photo: Stu Forster
Source: Getty Images

The Pakistan national cricket team was involved in one of the biggest match-fixing scandals in cricket history. Hidden cameras exposed the team's ploy to fix specific events in a test cricket match in 2010. Some of the players caught in the mess include Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir, and Salman. They were found guilty and handed lengthy bans and jail terms.

7. Olympique Marseille - Bribing Valenciennes players

Biggest scandal in football
Former Olympique Marseille owner Bernard Tapie arrives at the Valenciennes courthouse on 19 October 1993 for an investigation into the Marseille-Valenciennes scandal. Photo: Sebastien Vediere
Source: Getty Images

Marseille's European and domestic dominance was quickly washed away with reports of their attempted bribery of several Valenciennes players. Olympique Marseille had won the 1993 UEFA Champions League and a fourth consecutive Ligue 1 title, but were trying to avoid injuries to their players.

The club officials reportedly approached Jean-Jacques Eydelie and some of his Valenciennes teammates to throw their upcoming match and avoid injury to Marseille players. As a result, Marseille got relegated to Second Division. Bernard Tapie, the team's owner, was ousted from football too.

6. Boston College - Point shaving scandal

Biggest match-fixing scandals
The 1978-1979 Boston College men's basketball team. Jim Sweeney (11) was one of the players found guilty in a point shaving scandal. Photo: Joseph Dennehy
Source: Getty Images

The team's officials were found guilty of influencing nine games in a point shaving scandal. It is a common conspiracy in basketball where players agree with gamblers to deliberately limit the margin of victory without influencing the winner. Boston College's craftiness led to the indictment of all officials involved, including Tony Perla, Rick Kuhn, Jim Sweeney, James Burke, and Paul Mazzei.

5. Tim Donaghy - Betting crime

Biggest fixed sporting events
Tim Donaghy (C), a former NBA referee, leaves Federal District Court after his sentencing in the Brooklyn borough of New York, USA, on 29 July 2008. Photo: Rick Maiman
Source: Getty Images

Tim Donaghy was one of the acclaimed NBA referees before he was caught in a major betting scheme that ruined his career and reputation. Investigations revealed Donaghy used to bet on NBA games he was refereeing, with most of them resulting in higher scores. Tim's punishments were 15 months in prison and three years of supervised probation.

4. CCNY Beavers - Match fixing

Match-fixing punishment
City College of New York basketball team coach Nat Holman is lifted by fans and players while celebrating winning the NCAA crown at Madison Square Garden in 1950. Photo: Bettmann
Source: Getty Images

The City College of New York Beavers was considered one of the best teams during the 1940s and 1950s. The team won the 1950 NCAA Tournament and the National Invitational Tournament. Unfortunately, three of their players were arrested in 1951 in connection to match-fixing conspiracies.

Seven schools were also implicated in the scandal, including the University of Kentucky. Their star, Bill Spivey, was among the 33 players who were found guilty in the scheme. They were banned from playing in the NCAA Tournament until 2014.

3. Calciopoli Scandal

Biggest scandal in football
Legendary Italian manager Carlo Ancelotti (seated) attends a hearing in the Calciopoli trial in the Palace of Justice of Naples on 11 May 2010. Photo: Roberto Salomone
Source: Getty Images

The 2006 Calciopoli Scandal is arguably one of the biggest match-fixing scandals in football history. It involved top Italian clubs, who conspired to influence the appointment of officials to their respective matches. The teams included Juventus, AC Milan, Lazio, and Fiorentina.

Fiorentina was punished in relation to Serie B, in which AC Milan received a 15-point reduction and a UEFA Champions League ban. Meanwhile, Juventus were stripped of two of their league titles.

2. West Germany vs. Austria, 1982 World Cup

Match-fixing in World Cup
Horst Hrubesch (9) of Germany during their FIFA World Cup 1982 match against Austria, at El Molinon, Gijon, Spain on 25 June 1982. Photo: Gerard Bedeau
Source: Getty Images

Did you know that match-fixing in World Cup is also possible? Yes, this happened in a game between West Germany and Austria in the 1982 World Cup. The Germans were on the verge of being eliminated and needed three points against their final opponents Austria to proceed at the expense of Algeria.

After scoring the first goal in the early stages, West Germany stopped attacking and allegedly conspired with Austria to also sit back. The Germans won 1-0 and qualified for the next stage. However, no evidence was found, which means no rule was broken despite protests from Algerian officials. It is believed to be the biggest scandal in football at a World Cup event.

1. Black Sox Scandal

Biggest fixed sporting events
Chicago White Sox players sitting in a courtroom in Chicago, Illinois during the hearing of the famous Black Sox Scandal. Photo: Chicago Sun-Times
Source: Getty Images

The Black Sox Scandal is arguably one of the biggest fixed sporting events ever. According to the revelations, eight members of the Chicago White Sox were found guilty of throwing their MLB World Series against the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for money.

In 1919, the White Sox deliberately lost the nine game series in eight matches, but the players, including Joe Jackson and Eddie Cicotte, were later banned for life from baseball. Luckily, they all managed to avoid jail time.

Does match-fixing still exist?

Amidst the strict rules and unbearable punishment for offenders, incidences of match-fixing continue to surface globally. The latest rumours on a match-fixing scandal in 2022 involved the World Cup hosts, Qatar, who were accused by several outlets of allegedly bribing some Ecuadorian players to lose the opening match on purpose.

The sources report that the players were to pocket around $11.1 million to allow Qatar to win 1-0 and avoid humiliation. However, Ecuador beat the hosts 2-0 to kickstart their campaign on a high.

The above are some of the biggest match-fixing scandals in sports history, but there are plenty more that shocked the world. Although measures are in place to curb the menace, gamblers and corrupt sports officials still find ways to manoeuvre around and influence games to make money.

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Helix Odhiambo photo
Helix Odhiambo
Helix Odhiambo is an award-winning Kenyan journalist and content creator with over 6 years of experience. In 2016, he won the Goal Blaze Correspondent Award for young writers.