Never far from a bit of controversy, the Premier League has been home to some spectacular controversy in its 22-year history.
Whether it’s based on the subject of sexism, racism or infidelity, it seems the world’s media will always be able to rely upon the English top flight for a story.
In truth, such scandals can, at times, get in the way of the football side of things a little too much, but they can also provide onlookers with welcome distractions.
Here, we’ll chronicle the biggest scandals to have hit the Premier League in its relatively short history. If you think anything’s been left out or should have been ranked differently, let us know in the comments section below.
Compared to other sports of similar popularity, football is quite relaxed when it comes to the subject of performance-enhancing drugs and drug testing.
However, in 2003, Rio Ferdinand was one of those rare individuals to fall afoul of the law and was banned from the game for eight months after missing a test he was scheduled to have (via BBC Sport).
Along with his suspension, the Manchester United stalwart was fined £50,000 and missed Euro 2004 as a result of his ban.
It’s still slightly a mystery as to what reason Ferdinand had for missing the test, but the centre-back has since gone on to enjoy great success during his days as a Red Devil, absolving his sins in the minds of many.
An offence punishable by permanent exclusion from the sport in some institutions, match-fixing is just about as criminal a mistake as one can make in football and is one that brings to mind some very specific names and cases.
One such case is that of Bruce Grobbelaar, the former Liverpool goalkeeper who, while ultimately found innocent of the accusations, was hounded for a period still shrouded in slight mystery.
In 1994, The Sun newspaper (h/t BBC News) began their pursuit of the Zimbabwean stopper, alleging that Grobbelaar had accepted payment for intentionally conceding goals in a fixture against Newcastle United.
As the Daily Mail reported, after the allegations could not be proven, the tabloid publication was eventually ordered to pay the retired No.1 damages—of £1.
At the time, Lord Bingham of Cornhill stated:
He had in fact acted in a way in which no decent or honest footballer would act, and in a way which could, if not exposed and stamped on, undermine the integrity of a game which earns the loyalty and support of millions.
One of the most significant figures of the Premier League era, Ryan Giggs was always considered to be an honest family man, one who had earned the adoration of millions.
So when it became apparent in February 2012 that the Welshman was involved in a controversial case involving super-injunctions, privacy and parliamentary privilege, the football fraternity stood by in shock.
After a lengthy dispute with The Sun over whether or not Giggs could be named, BBC News reported that the Manchester United legend was involved in an extra-marital affair with former Miss Wales and Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas.
If that wasn’t enough, Giggs’ reputation slumped further when it became apparent that the veteran was the culprit in an eight-year affair with Natasha Giggs—his brother’s wife (via Daily Mail).
Since 2011, when Giggs supposedly took out the super-injunction, matters appear to have largely “blown over,” and the Red Devil is concentrating more on matters on the pitch.
Although it’s widely used in nations such as Brazil, Italy and Portugal, third-party ownership is still a relatively foreign concept in English football.
In 2006, West Ham struck a deal with four companies represented by agent Kia Joorabchian in order to bring Argentine pair Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano to the east London club.
It was later revealed that West Ham did not own the players per se, but had merely purchased economic rights to their signatures, a deal brokered by Media Sports Investment (MSI), a company owned by Joorabchian at the time.
However, irregularities in the pair’s contracts meant that the Hammers were fined a staggering £5 million by the Premier League. What was slightly more bemusing was that the club were never docked points, a factor that only increased the controversy of the situation.
That season, the pair—but especially Tevez—were hugely responsible for keeping West Ham in the top tier, largely at the expense of Sheffield United, who were relegated.
It was recently reported by the Independent that the Blades were finally close to obtaining the full sum of their compensation for the spectacle, believed to be around £18 million.
Unfortunately, personal lives—and romantic escapades in particular—have become among the most frequently discussed aspects of English football, with that of John Terry perhaps the most famous of the lot.
The Daily Mail reported in 2010 that the defender had carried on an extra-marital affair with French model Vanessa Perroncel, the former girlfriend of Chelsea and international teammate, Wayne Bridge.
Terry had applied to take out a super-injunction to prevent the media from reporting on the matter, thought to have taken place in 2009.
Matters were made worse when, in the same Daily Mail report, it was supposed that Terry had gotten Perroncel pregnant and that the model had received an abortion within months of the affair starting.
As a result, Terry’s reputation was damaged beyond repair, his country’s 2010 World Cup campaign was plagued by a sense of bad blood within the squad and Bridge was forced to leave Chelsea for pastures new.
The infamous court battle that rings to mind at every mention of “Rosie 47” is the case of Harry Redknapp and businessman Milan Mandaric, both of whom came under public scrutiny when they were accused of tax evasion in the mid 2000s.
A five-year probe took place, investigating a Monaco bank account that Redknapp had named after his dog Rosie because he “loved her to bits” (via Belfast Telegraph).
Accused of receiving up to £189,000 in “bungs”, the then-Tottenham Hotspur boss was finally acquitted of all charges in early 2012 (via Daily Mail), but the result didn’t come without a fight.
Redknapp’s innocence came as a relief to many fans of the helmsman, who is regarded as somewhat of a savvy manager and continues to enjoy his work in the Premier League as head of QPR.
In recent decades, the topic of female equality and the opportunity for women to have as many rights in football as men has become one of increasing discussion and debate.
Andy Gray and Richard Keys didn’t appear to support such rights when they were overheard voicing their concerns about a lineswoman being involved in a Premier League match (via Guardian). Gray was subsequently sacked, and Keys resigned.
In 2011, off-air audio of the duo went viral, showing Gray and Keys criticizing the decision to include female official Sian Massey, with Keys stating that “The game’s gone mad.”
Although you can still listen to the pair on talkSPORT radio, such views deserve no place in the modern game and are completely outdated, to say the least.
As he has been in the public eye from his early teenage years, it seems only natural that Wayne Rooney has never strayed too far from the headlines, and not always for the best reasons.
The Telegraph reported in 2010 that Rooney had allegedly had sex with prostitute Jennifer Thompson “seven times in four months” while his wife Coleen was pregnant with their first child.
Were the matter concerning another player of smaller stature in English football, it might not have been reported by the media with the same ferocity.
However, this was Wayne Rooney, England’s once-upon-a-time “golden child” and one of the best players the nation can boast of having produced in recent decades.
As a result, the matter affected the Premier League star’s image irreversibly and once again shed light on the issues some English players have with keeping their private lives as clean as their managers might like.
An issue currently under investigation in English football is a match-fixing ring of huge proportions may be affecting the Premier League and world football as a whole.
In 2012, former Southampton defender Claus Lundekvam claimed that he, his teammates and opposing captains would deliberately manipulate certain aspects of matches for the financial benefit of themselves and others.
Speaking to Norwegian channel NRK (h/t The Guardian), the retired defender said:
It's not something I'm proud of. For a while we did this almost every week. We made a fair bit of money. We could make deals with the opposing captain about, for example, betting on the first throw, the first corner, who started with the ball, a yellow card or a penalty. Those were the sorts of thing we had influence over.
More recently, however, the Daily Mail reported that a ring thought to be stretching worldwide was profiting from match-fixing in European football, a practice from which Liverpool allegedly benefited during a 2009 Champions League encounter with Debrecen.
BBC News says that Interpol is one of the organisations looking into the matter, which could uncover some shocking results in the coming months.
An event that marred not only the reputation of the player even further, but brought to light the tones of racism that continue to pollute the modern game, John Terry was punished in 2012 for racist remarks made against Anton Ferdinand.
Almost a year later, The Telegraph reported that Terry was charged with "abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour" which "included a reference to the ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race of Ferdinand."
In addition, the centre-back was fined £220,000—a week’s wages—as well as handed a four-match ban.
Although racism is very much known to be an issue in sport, the subject was not one very widely broadcast in England prior to this event and was more of an issue in countries such as Russia and Ukraine.
However, the case of Terry’s racist row showed that there’s still work to do in ensuring abuse of this sort doesn’t continue to afflict the Premier League.
Kolo Toure Diet Pills
In another example of drugs having their say in the Premier League, Kolo Toure was found to have failed a drugs test in November 2011 (via BBC Sport) and was hit with a six-month ban.
Manchester City also fined the Ivorian six weeks' wages for his mistake, despite the fact that Toure remains adamant that he merely took his diet tablets belonging to his wife.
Patrice Evra/Luis Suarez Racism Row
Racism reared its ugly head once more when Luis Suarez was accused of racist abuse towards Manchester United defender Patrice Evra in 2011, when Suarez admitted to using the word “negro” in Evra’s vicinity (via Metro).
Although the incident seems to now be at rest after the pair finally shook hands in one of their latest encounters (via Daily Mail), this was just another example that showed that the Premier League’s fight against racism could be far from over.
Mark Clattenburg Racist Accusations
It’s one thing for the players on the pitch to be accused of racism, but it’s another issue entirely when the allegations are aimed at a referee, since the officials are there to make sure such matters don’t pose an issue.
In 2012, the Daily Mail reported that two unnamed Chelsea players said they heard referee Mark Clattenburg make racist remarks during a fixture against Manchester United.
Chelsea later stated that they regretted their handling of the whole incident (BBC Sport), but its impact was nevertheless felt at the time.
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