Eats, Shoots and Leaves...


I was surprised to wake up this morning to a series of national newspaper headlines amounting to little more than 'large man eats pie'.  

We've all heard of quiet news days and I suppose journalists must earn a crust, but even by their standards, this seemed bizarre.  

However and as ever in the mad, mad world of football, all was not as it seemed.

As an avid football fan I had watched last night's game and enjoyed the spectacle of Sutton United of the National League taking on the might of my own team, Arsenal, before succumbing to a surprisingly narrow defeat. 

I laughed along with Sutton's reserve goalkeeper, Wayne Shaw, as he scoffed said pie in what I assumed was a simple dare, given the considerable publicity which his shall we say ample frame had attracted pre match.  

However, it now transpires that bookmaker Sun Bets, whose parent newspaper had stepped in to sponsor the match, had offered odds of 8-1 that Shaw would eat a pie on camera during the match and adverts to that effect had been carried both in a newspaper sponsoring the team and online.  

So potentially, the most surreal allegation of 'spot fixing' of all time. 

Sun Bets tweeted after the game that they had paid out a 'five-figure sum' to one punter and whilst Shaw has since confirmed that he had placed no bet personally, he confessed 'I think there were a few people (who backed it)... I think a few of the mates and a few of the fans. 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'.

The FA has taken a less relaxed view and a spokesperson has today confirmed that 'We are investigating to establish whether there has been any breach of The FA rules relating to betting'.

The Gambling Commission, which licenses and regulates gambling in Britain, has also announced that it is looking into whether there was, in the words of director Richard Watson, any 'irregularity in the betting market and establishing whether the operator has met its licence requirement to conduct its business...integrity in sport is not a joke and we have opened an investigation to establish exactly what happened'.

The truth is that much as I sympathise with Shaw's position, a man who after all and as Gary Lineker has pointed out, slept on a sofa 3 nights a week to help maintain and run the club which he loves, the incident can't just be dismissed as harmless fun. 

A worldwide ban on betting in football was introduced in 2014 and covers everyone involved in the game, from the players and managers through to the match officials and club staff. This prevents any participant covered by the ban from betting, directly or indirectly, on any football match or competition, including the passing of 'inside information'. 

Frankly the player, club, bookmaker and newspaper should all have known better than to allow the otherwise inspirational tale of Sutton's cup run to end on a sour note.  

On the plus side, it seems reasonable to assume that there will be plenty of media opportunities for Shaw, so perhaps he will move on to even bigger and better things.

Finally, Arsenal should perhaps reflect on the fact that had they showed half the appetite of Shaw, their recent 5-1 defeat to Bayern Munich would surely have been avoided. 

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Sutton United's 'roly poly goalie' Wayne Shaw has resigned after the club asked him to quit over the pie-eating betting scandal.Shaw was said to be in tears as the news was broken to him on the day the government's Gambling Commission and the Football Association opened investigations into his actions.The 23-stone stopper was caught on camera eating a pie during Monday night's televised FA Cup defeat by Arsenal.
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