Gwyn Jones, Wolves footballer who helped to expose the 1960s betting scandal – obituary

Telegraph Obituaries
·3-min read
Gwyn Jones - David Bagnall/Shutterstock
Gwyn Jones - David Bagnall/Shutterstock

Gwyn Jones, who has died aged 85, was a footballer who played for Wolverhampton Wanderers in their 1950s glory days, helping them to win two League titles; later, he became a whistle-blower who played a part in exposing a betting scandal that rocked the English game.

An uncompromising left-back, he was born in the village of Llandwrog in Gwynedd on March 20 1935, and signed for Caernarfon Town, a few miles up the road, while harbouring ambitions of becoming a teacher. But in 1955 he put in an impressive display in a friendly for a Bangor Select XI against Wolves.

Watching was one of the club’s directors, Jim Marshall, who snapped him up on professional terms - in those days £15 a week, with a £2 win bonus for a win and £1 for a draw. Three months later he made his debut in a 3-2 home win over local rivals West Bromwich Albion.

He was a reliable squad member at Molineux without ever establishing himself in a regular slot, and over seven seasons he played only 21 times in the first team, but his stint took in both Wolverhampton’s title-winning seasons, in 1957-58 – when he featured in victories against Aston Villa, Chelsea and a 4-0 thumping of Manchester United – and 1958-59.

He also played in the Charity Shield a few months later, a 3-1 win against the League champions Nottingham Forest. He toured South Africa and Indonesia with the club and played in friendlies against the big names in Europe, including a Juventus side featuring his compatriot, the mighty John Charles.

In 1962 he moved to Bristol Rovers, who had just been relegated to the Third Division. He made 153 League appearances over four years, and was appointed captain. He made a more significant contribution to football history, however, when he was offered a bribe to throw a game.

Jones, centre, with his Wolves teammates Eddie Stuart, left, and Barry Stobart - David Bagnall/Shutterstock
Jones, centre, with his Wolves teammates Eddie Stuart, left, and Barry Stobart - David Bagnall/Shutterstock

During the 1962-63 season a group of players led by Jimmy Gauld, and including two England internationals, Peter Swan and Tony Kay, had “fixed” several matches; in April 1963 Jones was approached in the run-up to his side’s meeting with Bradford Park Avenue, and offered a bribe to underperform. He refused, and immediately reported the offer to the Rovers manager Bert Tann.

The following year, when the Sunday People ran an exposé of the scandal (ably assisted by Gauld, who made far more money from spilling the beans – £7,000 – than he had from his ringleader’s role), it was revealed that two of Jones’s team-mates, the goalkeeper Esmond Million and inside-forward Keith Williams, had taken bribes before the Bradford game – £300 in Million’s case.

The pair’s attempts to throw the match – in a season when Rovers were battling to avoid relegation – proved fruitless: Million let a back-pass go past him, and flapped at a cross, allowing Kevin Hector (later of Derby County and England) to score a brace of goals; but Rovers also scored twice in a 2-2 draw.

Ten players eventually went to jail and several were banned for life – including Tony Kay, who had been a near-certainty for England’s 1966 World Cup squad; instead, Jack Charlton took his place and found enduring fame and glory.

Jones was released by Rovers in 1966 and went home to Wales, playing out his career at non-league Porthmadog. A fully qualified coach and an accomplished pianist, in retirement he spent 22 years in the clerical department of Anglesey Aluminium near Holyhead.

Jones, who was predeceased by his wife Margaretta, spent his final years in a care home; there, on his door, he had Wolves and Bristol Rovers badges on either side of his name.

Gwyn Jones, born March 20 1935, died November 13 2020