Wayne Shaw: Why Sutton's pie-eating goalie had to go

Petition to reinstate coach wins support, but critics say the wider picture cannot be ignored

Steven Shaw
Sutton United coach Steven Shaw eats a pie during the FA Cup tie against Arsenal
(Image credit: BBC)

Not for the first time has "just a bit of banter" turned out to rather more than that. This happened when Sutton United goalkeeping coach Wayne Shaw lost his job and found himself under investigation from the FA and Gambling Commission for the relatively innocuous act of eating a meat and potato pie.

Shaw was seen tucking into the snack in the 83rd minute of Sutton's FA Cup tie against Arsenal on Monday, provoking much merriment on social media and among TV and radio commentators.

However, things turned sour when it emerged that a bookmaker, who was sponsoring the non-league club for the night, had offered odds on just such an event.

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Shaw, who was on the bench as reserve keeper, said: "A few of the lads said to me earlier on, 'What is going on with the 8-1 about eating a pie?' I said, 'I don't know, I've eaten nothing all day, so I might give it a go later on'... I thought I would give them a bit of banter and let's do it. All the subs were on and we were 2-0 down."

The club took a rather dimmer view after news of the investigations emerged and Shaw was asked to resign - immediately becoming a cause celebre.

A petition launched to have him reinstated won 3,000 supporters within hours of being set up, while several brands have offered the "roly-poly goalie" employment as a pie-taster.

Some have jumped to his defence on Twitter:

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Shaw's actions were "a little prattish, a bit tacky", says Matt Dickinson of The Times. "But to lose your job for daftness? Leave the club for which you have given up your job as a part-time ice-cream man, sleeping on a sofa to be there to turn the lights off at night and open the gates in the morning?

"Even for the most pie-ous observer it seems so over the top that it inevitably raises questions about whether there is more to this than one rogue pasty and the possibility of a few quid on the side."

Bookmaker Sun Bets is partly to blame and it was "stupid" to offer odds on Shaw eating a pie, adds Dickinson.

However, the journalist also nods towards the wider issue at stake: "There are good reasons why spot-fixing is not just a serious matter for football authorities but a criminal offence."

Martin Samuel of the Daily Mail is unsympathetic and fears a conspiracy, saying Sun Bets will be remembered as "the bookmakers who corrupted the most romantic football match of the year".

The bet was a stunt, he adds, and no one could have seriously expected it to happen. Yet it has apparently cost the bookmaker more than £10,000.

"There are only two explanations," Samuel argues. "Sun Bets were in on it and were happy to suffer a little damage for the promotion – or Shaw has spied an opportunity and got his friends in on the act. For there is no way a market worth five figures is created otherwise."

There is no avoiding the wider picture says Stan Collymore in the Daily Mirror, who claims he was once approached by a spot-fixer wanting to tap up players in England.

"I didn't want for Wayne Shaw to lose his job and I blame the people who organised for him to do it rather than Sutton's back-up keeper but, frankly, the authorities are right to investigate and Sutton are right to ask him to resign," he says.

"Whatever people say, this can't be waved away as harmless fun and that's because it isn't where these things start, it's where they stop."

Roly-poly Sutton goalie Wayne Shaw resigns over Arsenal pie stunt

21 February

After the party comes the hangover, as Sutton United are discovering. Having put on a fine show against Arsenal the non-league side are now having to deal with the aftermath, which involves more than just clearing up the bottles of milk reportedly left on the radiator in the Arsenal dressing room.

It wasn't just the milk that was soured after a "generally uplifting night" at Gander Green Lane. The match also featured "pitch invasion, flares at both ends, a couple of fights on the 3G surface and plastic bottles thrown at the Arsenal dugout and their fans", writes Paul Hayward of the Daily Telegraph.

But he notes that the biggest problem could involve 23-stone goalkeeping coach Wayne Shaw, who was filmed eating a pie on the bench during the second half and may have "demeaned" his club in the process.

"The incident caused great laughter both at the ground and on social media, but it quickly transpired that Shaw appeared to have an ulterior motive," says Jack de Menezes of The Independent.

"Before the match, Sun Bet tweeted an offer of 8-1 odds on Shaw being pictured eating a pie during the match, and the fact that the same betting company had taken out a one-off shirt sponsor for the match was not lost on critics who felt the publicity stunt overshadowed the match."

Shaw later admitted he knew about the offer, "which raises the prospect of a Football Association investigation into a possible breach of betting rules". It's a prank that "hasn't painted Sutton in the best light", says the Independent.

There could be trouble ahead for Shaw, notes the Daily Mail. "The Gambling Commission sent a letter to betting operators last June warning them about novelty betting markets," says the paper. Enforcement and intelligence director Richard Watson said: "Integrity in sport is not a joke and we have opened an investigation to establish exactly what happened."

Sutton chairman Bruce Elliott told the BBC that Shaw would be brought "back down to earth".

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