The fixer – the Aberdonian behind one of football’s greatest scandals

The name of Jimmy Gauld is forever set in granite as the fixer behind arguably the greatest scandal in British football history.

Born in Aberdeen in 1931, Gauld joined the Dons’ youth team in 1948 but was released two years later. He then plied his trade in the Highland League with Huntly and Elgin before going to play for Waterford in Ireland. There, his free-scoring attracted scouts from England and he had a successful career with Charlton, Everton, Swindon and Plymouth.  In 1960, he was signed by St Johnstone manager Bobby Brown and moved to Perth.   Brown, who later became the Scotland manager, recalled that he realised almost straight away that he had signed a ‘wrong-un,’ while the other players found that if they paired up with Gauld in training runs they merely had to jog along rather than race at full-pelt.  Eventually, Bobby Brown met with Gauld, handed him his boots and some cash and told him to leave the club.

However, it wasn’t only on the pitch that Gauld was a disaster.  Off the pitch, he had, while in England, become the fixer in what was to become the biggest match-fixing ring in the game’s history.

In April 1963, the Sunday People broke the story about players colluding to fix matches, in which they’d bet on the outcome.  Jimmy Gauld was revealed to have been the man who co-ordinated this activity, dragging in his then Swindon teammate, David (Bronco) Layne, as well as England internationalists Peter Swann and Tony Kay.

Gauld seemingly knew no shame, because after being exposed, he sold his story to the People for £7,000, grassing up a number of players he had bribed or who had otherwise benefited from his match-fixing syndicate.  Unfortunately for him, the reporter recorded his story and the tapes were used to convict Gauld and 33 other players, nine of whom went to prison.  Jimmy Gauld received four years in prison and was fined £5,000.

Although match-fixing was not uncommon in Scotland in those days (there is ample evidence from former players and even the former Scotland manager Craig Brown told one football programme editor that it went on – although we should stress that Craig Brown himself was not involved), there is no specific evidence linking Gauld to this, although it begs the question of whether he might have brought his ‘skills’ to play off the field north of the border as well as in England.  However, as he died in 2004, we’ll never know.

Julie Skinner (with thanks to Alastair Blair, Scottish football historian), Resourcing and Benefits Specialist, RGU