There has been a lot of talk over recent seasons about the mega money which has been injected in to the game though Sky TV and the oil barons who have been buying up clubs and then stockpiling players as if they are expecting some sort of apocalypse. You’d be forgiven, then, for thinking that greed, and even corruption, is a relatively new phenomenon in the world of football and before the Premier League arrived to tarnish the beautiful game, all people cared about was playing for the love of their sport and owners owned clubs for similar reasons. Football betting tips would have pointed you towards great odds for some of the events which went on before the arrival of the Premier league. Fit and proper persons? You decide.
The Leeds City Scandal is one that no-one can claim to know the truth about, mostly because Herbert Chapman, manager of the side at the time, literally cooked the books by throwing them in a fire allegedly to hide details about illegal payments which had been made to players during the war. Leeds City, who were founded in 1904, were expelled from the league eight games in to the 1919/20 season because of the scandal and from the ashes of Chapman’s fire emerged Leeds United and we all know how good they are with their finances. Hebert Chapman went on to become one of the most forward thinking managers this country has ever seen.
Keith Cheeseman was chairman of Dunstable and you might be wondering just who the hell Dunstable are and why you’ve never heard of them. The reason for that would be that they went out of business in the seventies, crippled by the debt which had been run up by the chairman’s insistences on giving manager Barry Fry blank cheques so that he could sign players like George Best and Jeff Astle.
Cheeseman ended up in jail, serving six years for defrauding a US finance company before receiving a three year sentence for obtaining money by deception then topping that charge list off with a six and a half year sentence for the role he played in a City bonds robbery worth an estimated £292m in 1993.
El Dorado. Football Mecca. The place where players were promised the payday that would change their lives. Isn’t that what they all say? In the late 40’s and during the 50’s Colombia was, for a brief time, the first elite league in the world. Breaking away from FIFA, the country set up a cash-rich league which attracted top players from around the world. Players were promised the earth, and players like Alfredo Di Stefano and Neil Franklin arrived in the country to make their fortune. One team, called the Millionarios, signed one of the stars of the great River Plate team of the 1940’s, Adolfo Pedernera, who arrived at the Bogota airport to be greeted by thousands of screaming fans. Franklin and George Mountford left Stoke, Charlie Mitten headed to the league from Manchester United.
Colombia’s golden age was far from what it seemed. Players were holed up in hotels while military police patrolled the streets, massive sign-on fees were promised and then not paid and all but one of the English players returned to England before the end of their contracts. Just five years after the arrival of Pedernera, the age of El Dorado came to an end.
This one is confusing, I’ll try not to make it any more so. On the last day of the 1970-71 season in Germany the president of Offenbacher Kickers, Horst-Gregorio Canellas offered a bribe amounting to 140,000DM to Hertha Berlin if they could defeat Offenbacher’s rivals for relegation, Arminia Bielefeld. However, what Canellas did not know was that Hertha Berlin had already accepted a bribe from Arminia of 250,000DM in order to lose the game. In the end Hertha lost the game to Arminia 1 nil.
Following on a phonecall was published which revealed that Hertha player Bernd Patzke had been party to the scandal and before long the German FA came to realise the depth of the corruption which had existed during the previous season and after a long investigation it was found that no fewer than 18 matches had been fixed. The result was the banning of 52 players and Canellas, who turned whistleblower, presumably because his bribe had been spurned, was banned from football for life although this ban was overturned five years later.
It might seem that only modern football is filled with crazy people however in 1922 Bela Guttmann would have made Mario Balotelli proud. Determined to ensure that he was treated with the respect he believed he deserved he insisted on only ever wearing a silk shirt when he played. His international career came to an end when, disgusted at the quality of the hotel he was staying in while in Paris, he tied rats by their tails to the doors of officials while they were out enjoying themselves in Montmartre. When he moved in to management in Romania he decided to get around have to deal with rocketing inflation by insisting on being paid with nothing other than food.
When Arsenal made the decision to pay a record fee of £14,000 to sign forward Bryn Jones from Wolves such was the horror at the fee during the Great Depression that the transfer was debated in the House of Commons. The player, who only scored seven goals in 71 games, lost his best playing years due to the war, but certainly could not be seen as value for money.
When Tommy Lawton decided to move from Chelsea to Notts County in Division 3 in 1947 it was the same as Robin van Persie deciding to sign for Chesterfield today. Lawton was 27 and at his peak and the only reason anyone could see for the player moving to Notts County was the obscene amounts of money they had offered him. Notts County paid a record fee of £20,000 for the player.
I would like to thank the Guardian for this information and for my incessant need to never thrown anything away. More instalments covering other aspects of the game to come, starting with some of the weirder stories about greed and corruption between 1992 and 2009 in the next day or two.------------
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