The salutary tale of 7:1 ‘keeper Dick Beattie and his part in English football’s worst ever match-fixing scandal
Dick Beattie played his first game for Celtic against Clyde at Shawfield on October 20th 1954.
He arrived with flaws in his game – an inability to cope particularly well with cross balls being one of the more notable – but was prepared to work hard and learn his trade. As a result he made his way into the team that will be forever associated with October 19th 1957 when the Hoops not only retained the League Cup but shared an eight goal thriller with their then very much alive and kicking Glasgow rivals.
As Johnny Bonnar’s successor he was brave, athletic and skilful. He had three impossible saves against Hibs at easter Road early in the match on December 29th 1956 and then the game of his life at the same venue versus the legendary Reilly, Baker and Ormond forward line on November 23rd 1957, a match during which he even saved an Eddie Turnbull penalty kick.
There was the occasional bad day, of course. He was having a magnificent game for a ten man Celtic side against Clyde in the Glasgow Cup on August 20th 1958 when he hit a short goal kick to Dunky Mackay with five minutes left to play. Dunky played it back to him, Dick fumbled it (this was in the days when ‘keepers could pick the ball up from passbacks remember) and in came Johnny Coyle to make it 1-1. Beattie had been cutting out Tommy Ring’s crosses all night, but a minute after his passback blunder he missed his first cross and it was 2-1 for Clyde.
Against Motherwell on January 2nd 1959 he lost another two goals in the last two minutes in a game which ended up a 3-3 draw and that signalled the end for Beattie as Celtic’s ‘keeper.
Dick and his distinctive orange jockey cap (he was a keen gambler on horse racing) took off to England where he landed at Portsmouth, and in a whole heap of trouble in the shape of a weasel by the name of Jimmy Gauld.
Nick Hazlewood recounts the subsequent fall from grace of Dick Beattie in his book “In The Way”:
“Dick Beattie was an accomplished custodian who had played for Scotland at both junior and under-23 level. His career had him to St Mirren, Celtic, Peterborough and Portsmouth and he was considered by some to have been one of the finest goalkeeper of his generation. But on 19th April 1964 he was exposed by The People newspaper – he may have been one of the best at saving, but he doubled up as the undisputed king of not saving.
In an article by Michael Gabbert and Peter Campling headed ‘I took bribes to let goals through’, Beattie was named as the ‘worst offender in the whole gigantic scandal of bribed soccer players’.
The newspaper went on to say: ‘He was the most persistent of those who have thrown matches, and the most successful in making it appear that he was playing to win. And he certainly made handsome profits in direct bribes and in betting on matches that he had fixed. He could have been the finest goalkeeper in Britain. But he was a big spender and greedy for money. He was easily tempted.’
In a confession extracted by the People’s investigative team, Beattie was to admit to a whole litany of malpractices. According the keeper, another footballer at Portsmouth had introduced him to a bookmaker who promised good money for every Portsmouth game that the Scotsman could throw.
One example Beattie gave the paper was a match against Peterborough in April 1962, when his bookie watched from the stands as Beattie contrived to let in three goals. Sitting in the bookie’s car outside Bedhampton Station, Portsmouth, Beattie was handed £100 in used fivers.
There was a big irony here, too, for so impressed with Beattie’s performance were Peterborough, that two months later they splashed out and bought him.
Not that this instilled in him a newfound sense of loyalty – the Scotsman continued to throw games and The People sympathised with Peterborough by paying Beattie a backhanded compliment: ‘He was an artist at deliberately letting in goals while appearing to have unluckily missed making a miraculous save.’
Gauld (left) was described by trial judge Mr Justice Lawton as an “unpleasant rogue and the spider in the centre of the web”.
How were Peterborough to know?
Jimmy Gauld, the ‘Mr Big’ of the fixed-odds scandal, didn’t know of Beattie’s connection with the bookmaker. Beattie’s involvement with Gauld was in addition to the fixed games and involved straightforward betting on matches. Players fixing scores for Gauld would be obliged to bet on the matches in which they were playing, using their own money. In this way bribes could be disguised and the players involved became more committed to keeping their word.
It was a very lucrative practice. For fixing the Portsmouth v Peterborough game, Beattie received £100 from his own bookmaker and a further £300 from Gauld – for his very own bet that he could help Portsmouth to lose. Conversely, there was also big money to be lost if things didn’t go right. Beattie was betting £50 a time, a huge amount that was probably the equivalent of half his match fee. It made him all the more hungry to make sure that things went to plan – but it wasn’t always easy.
One weekend Gauld and Beattie bet on the result of the Peterborough v Queens Park Rangers game in which Beattie was playing and doubled it up with a bet that Brentford would beat Exeter, a game in which they had absolutely no influence in.
The latter half of the double was a straightforward bet on current form, and it was the part of the bet that went to plan. The part involving Beattie wasn’t so simple, as The People pointed out: ‘It was touch and go whether he could contrive a defeat for Peterborough. At one point the score was 1-1 with only a few minutes left to play. Then he managed to throw the ball straight to the feet of a QPR player who banged it into the net. “It was a very near thing,” said Beattie, “and there was a hell of a row about it in the dressing-room afterwards.’”
After the game Beattie met Gauld outside a hotel in Nottingham to receive another £200. Gauld told The People that the keeper was ‘flat broke’ when he arrived – ‘he didn’t even have the money to buy petrol to get him home if I failed to turn up’.
Beattie was eventually sunk when Gauld started blabbing to the press. Any honour among thieves rapidly evaporated when the newspaper offered soccer’s Mr Big £7,000 to name names. A registered letter from Beattie to Gauld connected the goalkeeper to the case and a recording Gauld made of Beattie finished him off.
At the trial in Nottingham ringleader Gauld was fined £5,000 and sentenced to four years imprisonment.”
Beattie was found guilty of match-fixing and spent nine months in prison. He was also banned from football for life. On his release he took up a new trade and spent many years away working as a welder in Saudi Arabia and Iran mong other places, but died of a heart attack in Scotland in 1990. He was 52.
Beattie’s entry in the pages of the Celtic Wiki ends on a sympathetic note: “It was a sad end to the career of a man who was commonly regarded by team mates as a hugely warm and likeable character. An ex-Posh team mate had described him simply as “..a hell of a nice guy”. In these times when even the most mediocre of players are millionaires it is easy to condemn all those involved in what became known as ‘The Fix’. But it has to be remembered that these were mostly players whose short and physically demanding career was largely during the time of the maximum wages.
Richard Beattie’s career should have been defined by his memorable seven finger salute. Instead the shadow of scandal is forever cast across his moment in the Hampden sun.”