How Notorious Match Fixer Jimmy Gauld Duped English Football
It was a scandal of epic and unprecedented proportions. Imagine the situation today. A former top-flight footballer who also represented several clubs lower down the Football League pyramid gives an interview to a national newspaper in which he admits involvement in a coordinated, systematic match-fixing operation spanning several years.
The player in question implicates three of his peers, all of whom also represented a First Division club at times during their career, revealing a syndicate whose existence leaves the whole of English football stunned.
This is not the script of a sport-themed television drama, but rather a real-life instance of the world’s most popular sport being used for nefarious means. The player at the centre of the exercise was Jimmy Gauld, an uncapped Scottish inside forward who remains one of the most notorious figures in the history of the British game.
Gauld took his first steps within the football world at Aberdeen, joining their youth system as a teenager in 1948. He spent two years at Pittodrie but was unable to secure a place in the senior ranks, departing in 1950 without ever making a first-team appearance for his hometown club. He then dropped down to the part-time Highland League in the north of Scotland, turning out for Huntly and Elgin City before moving to Ireland with Waterford in 1954.
That proved to be the best decision of Gould’s career. The forward scored 30 times in the League of Ireland, two more than any other player and a whole 11 more than the division’s third-highest goal-getter. His prolific exploits at Waterford – which were aided by the searing speed that saw him complete the 100-yard dash in just 10.3 seconds as a youngster – earned him a switch to Charlton Athletic, who had just finished 15th in England’s 22-team First Division.
Gould delivered an emphatic answer to those who doubted whether he could make the step up, finding the back of the net 21 times in 47 outings for the Addicks before he was on the move again.
This time it was Everton who secured the attacker’s services. The Toffees were a lower mid-table team in the mid-1950s, but they were still a huge club having won the top-flight title on five occasions. Yet Gauld was not quite as successful on Merseyside as he had been in London, scoring only seven goals in 21 league outings before once again seeking pastures new in 1957.
His next stop was Plymouth, where he spent two years and scored 25 times for a side who he helped win promotion to the Second Division. Swindon Town duly snapped Gould up for a club-record fee of £6,500; the Scot performed reasonably well at the County Ground but was let go at the end of the campaign – for a reason which had nothing to do with his on-field performance.
First Accusations Surface
Swindon finished in 16th place in the Third Division – a league which had only recently been made national – and ultimately avoided the drop by eight points, a healthy enough margin in the days where only a couple of points were awarded for a win.
They finished the campaign having taken 46 points from 46 games, which is exactly the same number accumulated by Port Vale, who finished higher up the standings by virtue of a superior goal average. Given that, to all intents and purposes, these were two evenly-matched teams, it came as a surprise when Port Vale thrashed Swindon by six goals to one in April.
That was the reason for Gauld’s release at the end of the season, with the Robins – who had initially decided to retain his services, before performing a dramatic U-turn after a board meeting – unsettled by accusations that he had helped to fix the result.
Jimmy Gauld, second from left, pictured turning out for Charlton Athletic against Blackpool in 1956 (© PA Images)
Such controversy did not prevent him from finding another employer, although the then-29-year-old had to return north of the border to St Johnstone. He did not stay long there, hot-footing it back to England in 1960 to join Mansfield Town, for whom he made a fantastic start with three goals in four games. However, Gauld then suffered a broken leg on Boxing Day, an injury from which he would not sufficiently recover to continue his playing career.
Lower-league players who are forced to retire prematurely will almost invariably need to find an alternative source of income today, but this was even more imperative in the 1960s. Yet rather than move into coaching, journalism or a legitimate career outside football, Gauld decided that he would dedicate his time and efforts to match fixing.
As Swindon had suspected, this was not his first dalliance with the dark side. During the 1959/60 campaign, Gould was informed by a fellow player that Mansfield had been paid by Tranmere Rovers to accept defeat in a clash between the two teams.
It was suggested to the Scot that he could try the same at then-employers Swindon when they faced Port Vale towards the end of the season. “Swindon were comfortably in the middle of the league, with nothing to win or lose, so it didn't seem such a terrible thing to do,” Gould said later, admitting his culpability.
It was a vice which he returned to after hanging up his boots. Towards the end of 1962, Gauld got in touch with a former Swindon team-mate, David Layne, who was then plying his trade at Sheffield Wednesday, who were enjoying an excellent season in the First Division.
Gauld persuaded Layne to get involved, and the two men identified a meeting with Ipswich at the start of December as one that could be ripe for fixing. Alf Ramsey’s side were the reigning champions, and although they had won only three of their first 19 games, they retained enough quality within the team to beat anyone in England on their day.
On the advice of Gauld, Layne approached two of his Wednesday colleagues, England international duo Peter Swan and Tony Kay, and convinced them that it was worth their while to join in with the scheme, particularly as Gauld had already pledged to cover each man’s £50 stake. The three players, together with Gauld, all bet against their own team, a wager that succeeded thanks to Ipswich’s 2-0 triumph at Portman Road.
That was not the only fixture influenced by Gauld and his syndicate that day. This was a necessity for the former footballer, who knew that bookmakers did not tend to accept bets on individual games – and in the rare cases they did, the odds were often too low to be worth the effort.
Using a method now known as an accumulator, he also targeted Lincoln City vs Brentford and Oldham Athletic vs York City, arranging for the home team to lose in the first game and the away side to suffer defeat in the second.
RELATED: What is a Football Accumulator?
Everything went to plan: as well as Ipswich’s 2-0 victory over Wednesday – only their fourth success of the First Division season – Brentford ran out 3-1 winners against Lincoln and Oldham saw off York 3-2, in a scoreline that was probably too close for comfort as far as Gauld’s nerves were concerned.
There was, however, an unexpected hitch. The bookmakers had identified suspicious activity and refused to pay out; in the end, the returns were severely down on what had been promised.
Gauld sent half of the £900 he had promised the Sheffield Wednesday players to Layne, while the York players received £180 and the Lincoln contingent £600, a larger sum on the grounds that it was harder for them to fix the outcome because they were playing at their own stadium in front of their own fans.
Gauld appeared to be disheartened by the attempt, for he did not try a repeat immediately.
However, in April 1963 the former forward decided it was time to launch another match-fixing operation, this time targeting a Third Division encounter between two sides who were flirting with relegation to the fourth tier, Bradford Park Avenue and Bristol Rovers.
Rovers pair Esmond Million and Keith Williams, a goalkeeper and inside forward respectively, agreed to take part after being contacted by Mansfield’s Brian Phillips, who was in cahoots with Gauld. However, the game finished 2-2 and the plot was later rumbled anyway, leading to fines and life bans for each of Million, Williams and Phillips.
A few months later, in August, Hartlepool United’s Ken Thomson admitted to the national press that he had bet with the same syndicate for his side to lose to Exeter City earlier that year, which also led to him being banned from football for life.
A week later, the Sunday People – the newspaper that had spoken to Thomson as part of an investigation into the issue – revealed that Gauld was the mastermind behind the entire operation.
Knowing that the game was up but keen to secure one last payday, the Scot sold his story to the same paper in 1964, accepting a fee of £7,000 to reveal his various wrongdoings. Gauld incriminated Layne, Swan and Kay, before a host of other names were linked with the syndicate following the former Everton man’s extraordinary admission of guilt.
In total, 10 footballers – some retired, others still playing – were tried in 1965 in a case that saw taped conversations used as evidence by the prosecution for the first time in an English court in what would become known as The British Betting Scandal of 1964.
Phillips of Mansfield was sentenced to 15 months, as was York’s Jack Fountain. Dick Beattie was found guilty of fixing Portsmouth matches and was sent to jail for nine months, while Mansfield’s Sammy Chapman, Walsall’s Ron Howells and the aforementioned Thomson of Hartlepool received six months.
Layne, Kay and Swan got off lightly in comparison, with each sentenced to four months’ imprisonment. Gauld himself received four years and received a hefty fine after being found guilty of conspiracy to defraud, with the Scot found to have earned £3,275 from illicitly betting on football games and more than double that from selling his story to the Sunday People.
Several of the life bans were subsequently lifted after the Football Association moved to amend a regulation to allow those on the receiving end to mount an appeal after seven years. Phillips did exactly that and was able to resume his playing career at amateur level, before moving into management.
Swan, pictured first on the left of the back row, and Layne, pictured last on the right of the back row, both returned to Wednesday (© PA Images)
Layne and Swan followed suit and even returned to Sheffield Wednesday in 1972, although the latter – who had worked as a landlord and a car salesman during his absence from the sport – moved to Bury after a year and the former was almost immediately sent on loan to Hereford.
Swan recalled the notorious incident involving Wednesday’s defeat by Ipswich in an interview with The Times in 2006. “We lost the game fair and square,” he said. “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?”
It also emerged that Swan’s involvement could have cost him a place in England’s 1966 World Cup squad, with Ramsey – the then-Ipswich manager who later took charge of his country – known to be a big fan of the centre-half.
“Do I regret placing that bet?” Kay, the third member of the Wednesday trio and another who was probably on course to be a member of the 1966 group, said in a write-up in the Observer in 2004.
“Well, I think I was harshly punished. I won only £150 from the bet, but my whole career was destroyed. They took away the game I loved and I have never really recovered from that.”
There was another fact that must have made Kay’s fate even harder for him to swallow: in the game he helped to fix to ensure a Wednesday defeat, the left-half was named man of the match.
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