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March 15, 2017

Prof Rathbone says match-fixing in sports a 1,750-year-old menace By Sabir Shah

Top Story

March 15, 2017

LAHORE: Dominic Rathbone, professor of ancient history at London’s prestigious King’s College, which was established in 1829 by King George IV, had claimed in April 2014 that an ancient wrestling match played in Egypt some 1,750 years ago, in AD 267, was fixed. 

Having deciphered and translated a contract written in Greek between the guarantors of two wrestlers named Nicantinous and Demetrius, Prof Dominic Rathbone, who is also the president of the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, had thus revealed that the earliest recorded match-fixing accord was inked between the father of a wrestler named Nicantinous and the guarantors/trainers of another wrestler called Demetrius. 

In its April 17, 2014 edition, London’s Daily Mail had written: “Modern professional wrestling contains many theatrics and sometimes pre-determined outcomes. But although the lurid costumes might be new, there is now proof that ancient wrestling matches were fixed too. Historians have deciphered a delicate Greek papyrus dating from 267 AD, which shows that the outcome of a wrestling match between two teenagers was predetermined”. 

The prestigious British newspaper had added: “The contract is the first proof of match-fixing ever discovered. It was made between the father of a wrestler called Nicantinous and the trainers of Demetrius who were set to wrestle in the final of the 138th ‘Great Antinoeia’, which was a series of games held during a religious festival in Egypt. The contract says that Demetrius must ‘when competing in the competition for the boy (wrestlers)...fall three times and yield” and in turn he would be rewarded with ‘three thousand eight hundred drachmas of silver of old coinage. The ancient bribe also contains a clause that Demetrius would still get his money if the judges picked up on the fact the match was fixed and refused to grant Nicantinous victory. 

The Daily Mail had gone on to write: “To make absolutely sure of a win, Nicantinous’ father arranged in the contract that if Demetrius backed out of the deal and went on to win, his trainers would have to pay a larger sum of money to his son. Dominic Rathbone, who translated the papyrus, told “Live Science” that 3,800 drachma - the cost of the original bribe - was not a large amount of money and could have bought a donkey only”. 

In relatively modern history, the “Black Sox Scandal” of 1919 in United States had rocked the sports world, especially the lovers of baseball. 

The scandal was a Major League Baseball match fixing incident in which eight members of the “Chicago White Sox” team were accused of intentionally losing the 1919 World Series against another side “Cincinnati Reds” in exchange for money from gamblers. 

The fallout from the scandal resulted in the appointment of Judge Kenesaw Landis as the first commissioner of baseball, granting him absolute control over the sport in order to restore its integrity. Despite acquittals in a public trial in 1921, Judge Landis had permanently banned all eight men from professional baseball. 

Despite requests for reinstatement in the nine-and-a-half decades that followed from certain Chicago players, the ban still remains in force as of 2017. 

After being banned, several members of the notorious “Black Sox Scam” had tried to organise a three-state barnstorming tour. However, they were forced to cancel those plans after Justice Landis had made it clear that anyone who played with or against the defamed players would also be banned from baseball for life. 

(References: An ESPN report of November 19, 2003 and the October 5, 1920 edition of the Minnesota Daily Star newspaper)

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