In the early twentieth century, Manchester United and Liverpool played an agreement. 7 players suspended for 26 years


All because of the bet with odds 8.0.

At the beginning of the XX century, Manchester United and Liverpool took two championships in England – even then their confrontation was fundamental. However, there were dubious matches in their history. In the 1914/15 season, the last before a 4-year break due to the First World War, a match took place, after which 8 people were disqualified for life. One of them has been waiting for an acquittal for almost 30 years.

At the end of the season, Manchester United were in the relegation zone and were home to Liverpool. For the whole match, according to the spectators, no one strained on the field – the players were booed, and some of their actions generally seemed absurd. As a result, Manchester won 2: 0. Manchester United captain Patrick O’Connell missed from the penalty spot even though top scorer George Anderson was supposed to hit, and Liverpool’s Fred Pagnam hit the crossbar in the last minute. Attempts to blame everything on the players’ fatigue and their thoughts about the war did not pass, although the players of other teams were really preparing to go to the front or a military plant.

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A week after the strange match, the Sporting Chronicle newspaper published an article about an underground bookmaker who rigged an agreement in Manchester: the hosts’ victory had to take place with a certain difference in the score. Moreover, it was alleged that players from both teams were placing bets. The investigation ended on December 23. Eight perpetrators were disqualified for life:

  • Arthur Whalley, Sandy Turnbull and Enoch West are all from Manchester United;
  • Jackie Sheldon (former Manchester United player), Tom Miller, Bob Purcell and Tom Fairful – Liverpool;
  • Cricketer Laurence Cook.

In 1914, football players out of work and unfit for service received 5 pounds a week

The English Championship was stopped for 4 years, most of the players and coaches went to the war or stayed to work in the rear. Manchester United striker Billy Meredith said that football players without work and unfit for service were doomed (the team paid 5 pounds a week). And if this is the end of the season, when one team is in the relegation zone, and the other calmly plays out the year …

In general, four days before the match, Sheldon, Wally, Turnbull and West in the Stretford bar agreed to charge the hosts for a 2-0 win with odds of 8.0. In the city where West was born, there was a surge in rates, and according to the memoirs of football historian Graham Sharpe, one of the bookmakers was forced to pay an incredible amount at that time, first at 200 pounds, and then another 150 pounds. The player was interrogated three times – he denied involvement in the agreement, claiming that he did not bet on anything and played with all his might.

Anderson turned in West, but he never confessed

Manchester United coach John Robson reminded the investigation that at the beginning of the second half, West did not understand why he knocked the ball into the stands instead of hitting the goal – he wrote it off on his nerves. In March 1916, the player sued the Football Association and E Hulton & Co Ltd for libel, demanding compensation because he wanted to resume his career. However, Anderson betrayed West, claiming that on the day of the game he offered to bet £ 3 on a win, and he himself boasted that he would win £ 70, and no one will prove it. Sheldon, Pagnam and Purcell also testified against him – West lost the case.

In June 1919, the Football Association announced its readiness to accept appeals from all participants in the match, except West – he continued to insist on innocence. Only in October 1945 was his disqualification canceled, but he did not admit his guilt.


Translated and adapted: Mark Ekimov

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