The 1966 World Cup was fixed… and 27 other crazy football conspiracy theories

Queen Elizabeth, Bobby Moore, 1966

Tinfoil hats at the ready as FFT reveals the game’s most radical claims – from Messi’s coded passing patterns to Lasagne-gate...

The Icke-ometer of conspiracy

Former Hereford keeper and BBC Breakfast Time presenter David Icke has made a career from peddling his belief that the world is run by a secret group of alien reptiles. Few are better placed to measure the beautiful game’s biggest conspiracy theories. Ratings are between 1 Icke (‘nothing too outlandish here – may even be true’) to 5 Ickes (‘the game is run by Nessie, Bigfoot and alien reptiles’). Enjoy! 

28. The 1966 and 1974 World Cups were fixed

Havelange’s proof? British or German referees – picked by his FIFA predecessor, the Englishman Sir Stanley Rous – who allowed roughhouse tactics to disrupt jogo bonito

Any window-licking conspiracist can come up with a theory – check out Hyde Park’s Speakers’ Corner next time you’re in London to see what we mean – but when a former FIFA president claims the 1966 and 1974 World Cups were fixed, you should probably take notice.

“It was planned for the host countries to win,” parped Joao Havelange in 2008. Who did the Brazilian think were most hard done by? Er, Brazil, obviously. “We were the best in the world, with the same teams that won the World Cup in 1962 in Chile and 1970 in Mexico.”

Havelange’s proof? British or German referees – picked by his FIFA predecessor, the Englishman Sir Stanley Rous – who allowed roughhouse tactics to disrupt jogo bonito. And that’s it. Not quite a smoking gun, Joao.

Joao Havelange

Havelange believed Brazil were hard done by at the 1966 and 1974 World Cups

27. Tapped-up European Cup referee robs the rams

The Rams lost 3-1 and Archie Gemmill and Roy McFarland were booked, ruling them out of the return leg, thanks to what The Sun described as “some of the most amazing refereeing ever seen”

As Brian Clough’s Derby travelled to Turin for their 1973 European Cup semi-final, Welsh Juventus legend John Charles warned Old Big ’Ead and his assistant Peter Taylor that the Old Lady’s German midfielder Helmut Haller “had the ear” of referee Gerhard Schulenberg.

So, when Taylor saw the pint-sized Haller accompanying his compatriot into the official’s dressing room at half-time, he hurried after them. “Haller jabbed me in the ribs and while I was gasping for air, some heavies grabbed hold of me,” Taylor later huffed. “I heard John shouting to me to hold on to my passport. I’ve never been so scared in my life.”

The Rams lost 3-1 and Archie Gemmill and Roy McFarland were booked, ruling them out of the return leg, thanks to what The Sun described as “some of the most amazing refereeing ever seen”. Clough was convinced. “No cheating bastards will I talk to,” he told the Italian press at full-time. Their grasp of Clough’s finest Anglo-Saxon, much like Schulenberg’s objectivity, was never determined.

26. Peru lie down for Argentine grain

Journalist and lead foul-crier Carlos Ares was threatened with death or exile, and – sensibly, given the military junta’s lax attitude to human rights – moved to Spain

When hosts Argentina beat already-eliminated Peru by two goals more than the required four to reach the 1978 World Cup Final at Brazil’s expense, it didn’t take long for cries of foul play to hang around the eventual winners. Journalist and lead foul-crier Carlos Ares was threatened with death or exile, and – sensibly, given the military junta’s lax attitude to human rights – moved to Spain.

Before the Peru game, dictator Jorge Videla’s oppressive mob, believing a home World Cup triumph would cleanse the country’s toxic image, offered the Peruvian government 35,000 tonnes of grain, $50m of assets to be unfrozen and the chance for a few of their South American cousins’ political prisoners “to disappear” in return for the necessary tennis score victory.

In 2012, former Peruvian senator Genaro Ledesma finally admitted the fix in open court. “With what I know now,” sighed Leopoldo Luque, Argentina’s two-goal striker in the game. “I can’t say I’m proud of my victory.”

25. Denmark and Sweden conspire at Euro 2004

After the game, decided by Mattias Jonson’s 89th-minute equaliser for Sweden, reports of constant dialogue between the opposing players began to surface, but Danish defender Thomas Helveg maintains there was no fix

“Italians might like to think in a Machiavellian way,” said flat-batted Sweden coach Lars Lagerback as his side prepared to face Denmark in Euro 2004’s final group games, knowing 2-2 would be the only result to ensure both Scandinavians progressed at the Azzurri’s expense, “but it would not be possible to play for a 2-2 draw. That’s a very unusual result.”

Denmark manager Morten Olsen was just as incredulous. “That’s ridiculous,” spat the bespectacled boss. “We’re honest people.”

The final score? Of course it was. “2-2!” screamed the front page of one Swedish newspaper. “Congratulations, Italy, you tipped correctly.”

After the game, decided by Mattias Jonson’s 89th-minute equaliser for Sweden, reports of constant dialogue between the opposing players began to surface, but Danish defender Thomas Helveg maintains there was no fix. “It was a real game,” he later trilled. “I wanted to take out the Swedes at all costs – there are centuries of rivalry between us.” Don’t let history get in the way of a good conspiracy, Thomas.

24. The Franco regime threatened Barcelona

You’re only playing thanks to the generosity of the regime, who have pardoned your lack of patriotism in the first leg

- Jose Finat

In strolling to a 3-0 Copa del Generalisimo win over Real Madrid in 1943’s semi-final first-leg, Barcelona were odds-on to meet Athletic Bilbao in the final at their fierce rivals’ expense. But trouble was brewing.

Keen to stamp his authority on the domestic cup that bore his name, dictator General Franco fined the Catalans for the whistling of Real Madrid and over-exuberant celebrations. The story goes that just before the return leg in Madrid, Jose Finat – Franco’s Director General of National Security – dropped by Barcelona’s dressing room for a quick chat.

Sporting a pair of revolvers on his belt, Finat is said to have ‘reminded’ the team: “You’re only playing thanks to the generosity of the regime, who have pardoned your lack of patriotism in the first leg.” Real Madrid won 11-1. It’s still a Clasico record, and probably always will be.

Franco

Franco could have been behind Barcelona's record Clasico defeat

Next: The convenient relegation delay

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