Sutton United ‘piegate’ highlights football’s dodgy relationship with bookies

Ryan Benson

When non-league Sutton United hosted the might of Premier League giants Arsenal in the FA Cup fifth round on Monday, the match should have been a celebration of the minnows’ grand achievement of getting so far and their rather unlikely fairytale.

However, the day after Arsenal‘s 2-0 win, the match itself isn’t exactly being spoken about much. Instead, the sideshow of Sutton’s 46-year-old reserve goalkeeper Wayne Shaw is overshadowing and undermining the club’s remarkable cup run, threatening to become the story instead.

The shot-stopper came to ‘fame’ in previous rounds for simply being a rotund chap sat on the Sutton bench. Shaw’s presence as a 40-plus, large ‘geezer’ essentially highlighted the two different worlds of Sutton and the majority of their opponents.

But this time he thought it was a good idea to get himself some infamy. Shaw was seen live on TV eating a pie whilst on the bench, a move which seemed to delight many of those watching. On the face of it, it was an amusing and unpretentious moment.

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But it swiftly came apparent that this was no organic thought from his mind, rather from The Sun think tank. The newspaper’s betting site posted odds of 8/1 on Twitter for Shaw getting snapped eating a pie while at the match.

Now, we aren’t going to make any claims or judgement about whether or not Shaw received any money – to state something without actual evidence would be beyond moronic. We’ll let you make your own minds up.

But what’s clear is that it was a PR stunt set up by The Sun and their betting site, which in itself highlights moral and ethical issues.

The fact is, The Sun – as a bookie – appear to have used their standing and power to influence the actions of someone involved in a football match and, while this particular incident had no obvious effect on the game itself, it still gives an idea as to the potential disruption and problems such moves from betting companies can have.

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We’ve seen similar on a bigger stage before, when Nicklas Bendtner revealed Paddy Power underwear after scoring for Denmark at Euro 2012. He was subsequently fine £80,000 by UEFA.

Of course, this bloke being nudged into a PR stunt by The Sun is hardly going to result in civil war, but it does make you wonder how much further bookies’ influence can go if they wave enough cash at someone.

Added to that, it doesn’t exactly set a great example for the younger generations. They are being encouraged to abandon principles in exchange for a bit of notoriety or, in some cases, money.

Shaw will likely receive some sort of punishment for his role in this, but what is there to stop The Sun – and others – doing similar and worse in future?

Wayne Shaw probably doesn’t make the list of gems to buy after your first season on Football Manager 2017!

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