10 sportsmen who gambled with their careers
You can’t go online these days without chancing upon a story about a sportsman who enjoys a flutter. From John Terry savouring a day at the races to Floyd Mayweather prowling around the tables in Vegas, there is no end of athletes who have the betting bug. But then there’s that small percentage of people who can’t help but take things a bit further.
As a rugby league player-turned-rugby union coach, Phil Blake would have been more aware than most of the price of violating gambling laws. And yet still he couldn’t resist putting money on two Leicester Tigers fixtures. But as the following examples illustrate, he’s not the first to manipulate the odds in his favour, and the chances are, he won’t be the last…
1) Pete Rose (main image, left) – ‘Charlie Hustle’ still holds the record for the most hits in baseball history. However, Rose’s reputation was sullied by allegations that, while coaching the Cincinnati Reds, he not only gambled on games but actually bet on his own side to lose. Though these claims were never substantiated, a deal struck with Major League Baseball means this great of the game will never be admitted to the sport’s hallowed Hall Of Fame.
2) Paolo Rossi – The star of Italy’s 1982 World Cup-winning side, Rossi once looked set to be remembered as something other than a champion. While playing for Perugia in 1979, Rossi participated in the infamous Totonero betting scandal, a scheme that spanned two divisions and countless teams. A three year ban disqualified him from the 1980 European Championships but elapsed just prior to Espana ’82 where Rossi also claimed the coveted Golden Boot.
3) Salman Butt (main image – right), Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir – After spectacularly overstepping during the 2010 Lord’s test, Mohammads Asif and Amir, together with their captain Butt, were hauled in front of the ICC. When their suspicions were confirmed by an undercover News Of The World investigation, all three were promptly handed lengthy bans. It was left to the high courts to send the trio to jail for sentences ranging from six months to three years.
4) Tony Kay – Left half Kay was playing for Sheffield Wednesday when ex-pro Jimmy Gauld persuaded him to throw a game against Ipswich Town. When this and additional misdoings were exposed by the FA and the tabloid press, the England international found himself banned for life. That his story lives on is in part due to The Fix, a 1994 TV drama starring Steve Coogan and Jason Isaacs and directed by The Bourne Ultimatum’s Paul Greengrass.
5) Hansie Cronje (main image, centre) – Championed as both a leader and a committed man of God, Cronje fell further than most when he consorted with an Indian betting syndicate and then leant on teammates Herschelle Gibbs, Nicky Boje and Pieter Strydom to underperform. Claiming in court that he saw the money the bookies offered as ‘money for jam’, Cronje found himself in a right pickle – his life ban was cut short solely by his dying in a plane crash in 2002.
6) The 1919 Chicago White Sox – The granddaddy of all sports betting scandals, the 1919 Sox were the world’s best baseball team by a considerable distance. Alas, they were also among the most poorly paid athletes in the US, a factor that made an offer to throw the World Series more tempting than you might imagine. Those involved included the legendary ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson and George ‘Buck’ Weaver, who received a life ban despite not taking a dime of the dirty money.
7) Boston College – Although university basketball’s a huge business in the States, none of the money goes to the ‘amateur’ players. This might explain why they succumb to schemes such as point shaving, in which a team contrives to keep the score close to ensure the spread’s covered. That the Boston College affair deserves special mention stems from it having been masterminded by Henry Hill, the gangster portrayed by Ray Liotta in the Martin Scorsese classic Goodfellas.
8) Alex Karras – Perhaps best known for playing the monstrous Mongo in spoof western Blazing Saddles, Karras was one of the biggest NFL stars of the early ‘60s. That was until he was snared in a government betting probe, his punishment for which was a one-year suspension. As a talented actor and pro wrestler, Karras had no trouble killing the time. The NFL was less fortunate – sports writers estimate it took the best part of a decade to rebuild the fans’ trust.
9) Tim Donaghy – If the name doesn’t ring any bells, it might be because Donaghy’s not a sportsman; rather he’s an NBA referee who bet on the outcome of a 2007 playoff game that he officiated. As you won’t be surprised to learn, this is highly illegal, so much so that Donaghy was rounded up by the FBI. Handed a 15-month jail term and a lengthy probation, he’s a free man now but is banned the world over from referring basketball games.
10) Lloyd Honeyghan – Boxers are among the few sportsmen allowed to place bets on themselves. Still, when Jamaican-born Brit Honeyghan came up against undisputed welterweight champ – also the world’s top pound-for-pound fighter at the time – Don ‘Cobra’ Curry in 1985, no one gave him a hope of winning. Not short on self-confidence, the ‘Ragamuffin Man’ put $5,000 on himself at 5-1 and promptly pulled off the seemingly impossible.