A scandal has rocked the Scottish Third Division Football League today when it was revealed that a Chinese betting syndicate had been paying referees to fix matches. The dodgy dealings were uncovered when fourth official Sid Line sent a series of private refereeing documents to Wikileaks.
Mr Line saw red when he found that referee Andy Cashin had deliberately awarded a goal to the wrong team during the 32-1 thrashing of Peebles City by Hawick Men. The Peebles goal was wrongly attributed to them, when it had in fact been scored by Hawick. Police were also alerted to the issue when a surprisingly high number of bets were placed for the unlikely scoreline at gambling website BettyFord.com. The bets nearly bankrupted the small bookmakers, with a large number of winners coming from China.
Police investigations also spotted irregularities last week during one of the highlights of the Scottish Third Division Football League calendar - the Auchtermuchty derby, played between the teams Auchtermuchty Distillery and Auchtermuchty Roundabout. During that match, a huge volume of bets were placed on the possibility of the first goal being scored by a stray donkey, with odds at 5000-1. Amazingly, at half time with the match goalless, a stray donkey did wander onto the pitch and the referee allowed it to score when play resumed. However, the audacity of the scam was something of an own goal for the matchfixers, and the police were soon able to net the criminals.
In China, matchfixing is a common occurence. Often at football matches, spectators will throw their money onto the pitch in an attempt to influence the referee and players. The cash can pile up high on the grass, and play is often paused while the teams ask the crowd what outcome they would prefer. The sums involved are enormous - at one match last year, a player drowned after falling into a huge pile of coins while trying to take a throw-in.
Habits are very different in Scotland. At a friendly between China and Scotland last year, when the Chinese began throwing money onto the field there was almost a riot during the subsequent pitch invasion.
But for those in Britain who wish to play the boring old "unfixed" version of football, the latest allegations are only the latest example of how badly the game has deteriorated, and an indication of how terrible the game would be if deceitful foreigners were allowed to run it.
Football analyst Tommy Extratime thought that it might not be long before a new code of football is developed. "Perhaps it will be called cheatball," he suggested. "A game where the winner is decided by money and gambling, and all traditional rules are thrown away. But is that really so different from when William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and began to run with it? Or from when Manchester United play?"
Meanwhile, it is expected that British football will continue as the genteel and respectable pastime as it has always been. But as Tommy Extratime says, "The balls of fate will decide its future, on the penalty spot of destiny. I for one hope that future cups will not hang on those balls going astray."