Worst Kind and Best

December 16, 2013



Ken Masters



I admit to having a problem with football fans that seem to be more fans of the football media than of the game itself. I have no doubts that this is generated by the massive interest in the game. Of course there are those who will tell you that football does not interest them in the slightest and others that will tell you that so and so is their team, probably in the top half dozen in the Premier League, even if they have not been to a live game, ever. Funny thing is I find that those with no interest, supposedly, are quick to pick up on scandal and use such issues to reinforce their prejudice. Likewise I find those with a, “I am a fan but I’ve never been to a footy match in my life” sort of interest are also more into the media highlighted scandal than they are into, say, junior football, youth development, football in the community, charity work, involvement in schools, hospital visits, refereeing on the Downs and all that’s good about the game.

Real fans want to be there, no matter what the level, to support their team, to encourage players, to appreciate effort on their behalf, to recognise good play by the opposition. Proper players want to train hard, to win football matches, to be disappointed yet magnanimous in defeat, to learn and get better. What real fans and proper players don’t want is to be cheated and let’s be honest, match fixing is the worst kind of cheating. What makes it the worst kind is that through betting, money is involved and personal gain is the motive by engineering incidents during games, even results in extreme cases.

So, what is match fixing? By strict definition it is fixing, or attempting to fix the result of a game. In 1962/63 I was playing the game as an eighteen year old and watching Rovers when I could; Biggs, Hillard, Hamilton, Jarman and Bobby Jones, in their day the best kind. Goalkeeping wise you may say we were between Radford and Hall. I took in more games at Eastville than I was expecting that season because the worst winter weather for years meant that many games at a local level were called off.

In April 1963 the “People” newspaper alleged that Rovers goalkeeper Esmond Million had accepted a £300 bribe to enable Bradford PA to beat us. Three hundred notes was a decent bit of money in ’63. It was said that he let Kevin Hector score twice in the game by not dealing with a back pass and a cross respectively, in the event the game was drawn 2-2. A former team mate of Million, Brian Phillips of Mansfield Town was named as the fixer and was later to serve 15 months imprisonment for the crime. Million was suspended by Rovers, found guilty at Doncaster Magistrates Court fined by the court and then banned for life by the FA. Bernie Hall took his chance in the Rovers goal and became a legend so I suppose we had something to thank Million for.

So in 2013 we have this on the web from Ed Hawkins, a sports betting expert:

“Football is never far away from its next scandal and allegations of match-fixing certainly dent the reputation of the beautiful game. But is it right to call the recent claims of wrongdoing match fixing?” Excuse me Ed!

It has been reported that a player was recently filmed by an undercover reporter claiming he could arrange for footballers to be booked for a £30,000 fee and a sending-off for £50,000 to £70,000 in order to facilitate betting fraudsters. Six people have been arrested at the time of writing, including a Championship striker.

Hawkins goes on to say that emotive terms like “plague” and “cancer” have been used in the media and there have been calls for fixers to be banned for life. Ed asks the question

“Why has no-one asked whether it is actually possible to make substantial amounts of money by betting on yellow and red cards?”

For once in my life I am the side of the media. Plague and Cancer are strong words and insinuate a wide spread disease which is certainly not true. However, this is a betting scandal, seemingly, and the press are right to expose it. I am not particularly interested as to whether or not it is possible to make money on betting on yellow or red cards.

I look at it this way. If a player fixes a red card and a team are reduced to ten men as a result, go on to lose the game then that is inadvertently match fixing by cheating. It is the worst kind of cheating, it is more ammunition to the anti footballing and armchair fraternity who do not understand the great deal of good that is football and the cheats, if proven guilty by a court of law, should not be allowed anywhere near our wonderful game ever again.



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