Wayne Shaw’s Pie-eating antics a further warning to clubs about access to their players

On Monday night, one of the great British sporting sights played out in a small suburb of south London.

If the FA Cup is loved by football fans, it is surely for the little versus the large; David versus Goliath. And that’s what happened on Monday night. Non-league Sutton United took on Cup champions in two out of the last three years, Arsenal.

Sutton, sponsored on a on-off basis by Sun Bets – the betting arm of The Sun – created a huge buzz around their rough and ready non-league side. Could they upset the odds?

However, one player in particular, Wayne Shaw, plucked the headlines. Before the game, Sun Bets tweeted this offer on the 23-stone reserve goalkeeper eating a pie during the game:

Sure enough, with ten minutes to go and the score at 2-0 to Arsenal, Shaw stepped into the spotlight and munched a pie, sending social media into meltdown.

But if Shaw became a social media celebrity, he experienced the fate of most fleeting internet stars in a whirlwind. From hero to zero in ten minutes flat. What Twitter giveth, Twitter taketh away.

The furore surrounded the integrity of the sport. Many felt it was a bit of fun, a bit of self-deprecating humour and nothing serious. After all, can an image of a man eating a pie really damage the reputation of football, a sport synonymous with men eating pies?

The problem was, though, that because he was aware of the odds being offered by Sun Bets, and because he had allegedly told friends about the bet and that he would do it, he was possibly in breach of betting rules.

That led to a possible FA and Gambling Commission investigation. And, in turn, led to Shaw’s resignation from his job at the club. It all happened fast.

Sutton manager Paul Doswell told the BBC of his sadness at the situation. The game – possibly the biggest in the club’s history – will forever be remembered for ‘Piegate’ and doesn’t do a whole lot for the professional image of the club. ‘The team were magnificent against Arsenal, but to think someone’s openly eating a pie behind them reflects very much away from what they did. I know Wayne regrets it, he is very, very sorry about the whole situation.’

But one little talked about problem this throws up is how football clubs – and this probably goes for every sports team – keep hold of access to their players.

Doswell’s final quote to the BBC was tinged with more than a hint of sorrow: ‘My overriding wish is he’d have asked my advice because very clearly I’d have advised him not to do it. I wouldn’t have allowed him to do it.’

‘Piegate’ may have highlighted a lot of issues for football as a sport, especially when it comes to gambling. But for clubs themselves, it further highlights the need to monitor their players closely. That’s much easier for clubs with Premier League resources. Not only can they employ professionals to help out in this area, but their players don’t have second jobs, nor are they likely to be lured by any kind of fleeting fame.

The Twitter storm that followed the incident shows just how much the internet loves these kinds of stunts – and where there’s popularity, there’s someone looking to create the buzz in the name of engagement and publicity.

That in itself should be a warning. But if that wasn’t enough already, the sad tale of Wayne Shaw and ‘Piegate’ should make it even clearer.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 195 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and a regular contributor to Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan91

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