A gambling scandal has struck English soccer, and, like most good scandals, it involves pie.
On Monday, Arsenal scored a 2-0 win over Sutton United in the fifth round of the FA Cup, the annual competition between teams from all levels of English soccer. It was an expected result: Arsenal is a traditional power, currently tied for third in the Premier League standings. Sutton United competes in the fifth-tier National League, which features a mix of full-time and semiprofessional clubs.
But here’s the controversy: As the game wound down, Sutton backup goalkeeper and assistant coach Wayne Shaw was shown on the sideline eating some sort of pie. Shaw was aware that one English bookmaker was offering 8-to-1 odds against him eating a pie on the bench, and so he ate pie on the bench.
“A few of the lads said to me earlier on: ‘What is going on with the 8-1 about eating a pie?’ I said: ‘I don’t know, I’ve eaten nothing all day, so I might give it a go later on,’ ” Shaw told the Guardian. “Sun Bets had us at 8-1 to eat a pie. I thought I would give them a bit of banter and let’s do it. All the subs were on and we were 2-0 down.
“I went and got it at halftime from the kitchen, I had it all prepared and ready to go. It was meat and potato.”
Shaw admitted that he maybe knew that people were going to be betting on whether he would eat some pie during the game.
“I think there were a few people. Obviously we are not allowed to bet. I think a few of the mates and a few of the fans,” he said. “It was just a bit of banter for them. It is something to make the occasion as well, and you can look back and say it was part of it and we got our ticket money back.”
And while he indeed was not allowed to bet, he does appear to be in violation of FA rules that prohibit players from enabling “any person to bet on (i) the result, progress, conduct or any other aspect of, or occurrence in, a football match or competition.” On Tuesday, Sutton announced Shaw’s resignation.
Sutton Chairman Bruce Elliott attempted to distance himself from the controversy while also saying he was hardly surprised by Shaw’s antics.
“If you knew the roly-poly goalkeeper, you probably wouldn’t be very surprised,” he told BBC 5. “But Wayne is a top man. I didn’t know anything about it. He has got himself in the papers again, and the fame obviously has gone to his head a little bit, but we will soon bring him back down to earth; don’t worry about that.”