John Foot on the Great Italian Football Scandal

Fixing a football match is a risky business. Players can be bribed, but things can go wrong when thousands of fans are watching. The alternative is to offer the referee a backhander. A German referee was recently jailed for rigging games in the second division of the Bundesliga for a Croatian betting syndicate. In Italy, there had traditionally been little need to resort to such methods: ever since football became a mass sport in the 1930s, referees have tended to favour the powerful clubs. In the 1960s this came to be known as sudditanza psicologica (‘psychological slavery’). By the 1990s, as TV money poured into the game, the rich teams – especially Juventus, the richest of them all – were no longer content to rely on ‘psychological slavery’. The system they constructed put referees, linesmen, journalists, the transfer market and agents under their control; in this way success was assured. In May 2006, this system was laid bare.

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