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Sports

1970s: Large-scale matchfixing scandal

The match-fixing scandal of the 1970s was one of the darkest chapters in Bundesliga history. A tape was played at a birthday party - and that triggered revelations that implicated one third of the league.

The 1970-71 season was over: Mönchengladbach had defended its title, but the fight over relegation was a nail biter until the very last day.

In the end Oberhausen and Bielefeld managed to stay in the Bundesliga, but Essen and Offenbach had to go down.

A few days after their fate had been sealed, Offenbach's president Horst-Gregorio Canellas gave a big garden party to celebrate his 50th birthday. And he played a tape recording to his guests.

What they heard was a phone conversation between Canellas and Berlin's defender Bernd Patzke. It had been recorded before the last match day when Hertha Berlin had surprisingly lost against Bielefeld, which had served to save that team and seal relegation for Offenbach.

The taped conversation revealed that the Hertha players had been offered a bribe by both Offenbach (as an incentive to beat Bielefeld) and Bielefeld (to lose). The Berlin players had gone with the highest bidder: 15,000 German marks (7,500 euros, $9,000) from Bielefeld for each Berlin player – a huge sum back then.

By playing the tape Canellas wanted to prove that the last match had been rigged and his team should not have been relegated.

"And that is why we lay claim to a spot in the Bundesliga," he said.

The drama unfolds

Berlin players Bernd Patzke and Tasso Wild are found to have been behind that particular incident. Wild later admitted that his team had voted in the locker room to accept the bribe.

"Nine were in favor, arguing that if they were stupid enough to offer us money, we should take it. Seven were against. We just kept the money then," he said.

Until then Hertha had won all home games throughout the entire season – before losing the final one.

But it quickly emerged that theirs was not the only rigged match of the season. Bielefeld had also bribed Schalke players to lose against them in a farcical match earlier in the season.

The scandal spread and it emerged that 60 players, coaches and managers of one third of all Bundesliga clubs had been involved in match-fixing.

DFB chief prosecutor Hans Kindermann had his hands full.

Several players were cleared of allegations, but both Bielefeld and Offenbach lost their licenses. Bielefeld were even relegated to the regional league.

German football fans were shocked. They turned their backs on the sport - until the national team redeemed it by winning the World Cup in Germany in 1974. Only then did the fans return to the stadiums in significant numbers.

Since then the German Football Association has introduced anti-corruption measures and an ethics code.

And they removed a major incentive for match fixing: Before the Bundesliga scandal players could earn no more than 1.200 marks a month. That ceiling has long-since been removed.