Is Football REALLY Scripted? (Deep Dive)

Football has been known to be ‘the beautiful game’ for nearly as long as people have actively played it because it involves teams coming together to compete for a trophy. However, in recent years, you may have questioned the reality of football for different reasons, especially if it is actually a spontaneous sport or if the sport is scripted like the WWE. 

In order to ascertain whether or not football is scripted, let’s take a deep dive into some football matches. We will try to understand how they took place and if a group of people actually scripted them for entertainment

Football is Scripted

The idea of football being a scripted sport was brought to the fore for different reasons. When fans watch games that end in shocking conclusions or results, they often assume that the game’s results have been pre-determined. This line of thought may be justified with several illustrations. 

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#1 Referee Bias

The role referees perform in football is crucial but could be quite controversial, as matches may be influenced to favour one team over the opposition. When questionable officiating occurs, the question of whether matches are scripted often arises. 

An example that comes to mind immediately is the 2009 UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg between Chelsea and FC Barcelona at Stamford Bridge. After a goalless draw in Barcelona, a draw like 1-1 or 2-2 would have been enough to send Barcelona through on away goals. 

Chelsea took the lead in the match before seeing a series of pivotal decisions go against them, including some valid penalty claims that would have put them home and dry.

The Spanish club scored late in the game to qualify on away goals, sparking massive protests among the home side’s players. Striker Didier Drogba earned a ban for his remonstration with the referee and his assistants at the final whistle. 

Here is how this game went:

Another example of a game that looked scripted was the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second-leg clash between Barcelona and Paris Saint Germain in 2017. 

Having lost the first leg 4-0 in Paris, Barcelona needed a five-goal swing to qualify for the quarterfinals. The Spanish side won 6-1 with some contentious decisions going their way, including a questionable penalty. The match was referred to as a farce by many fans, seeing as PSG just seemingly bent backwards to allow Barcelona to defeat them.

You can check out how the game went here:

#2 Match Fixing

Another reason which prompts fans to assume that football is scripted is the occurrence of match-fixing in football. Match-fixing is one of the most criminal offences in football and is punished very severely. 

Juventus were stripped of two Serie A titles in 2006 and relegated to Italy’s second division, Serie B, after they were implicated in a high-profile match-fixing scandal. 

Referees were handpicked for specific matches in order to have them favour certain teams and ensure that matches ended in a certain way. 

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Sometimes, fans assume that the results of matches have been pre-determined because of the quality of performance they witness from their teams in certain games. This was the case for Brazil fans in 2014 during the FIFA World Cup when they saw their side get walloped 7-1 by Germany in the semi-final match.

The performance and result were so bad that fans assumed the match had been rigged and Brazil’s players had been told not to put in any effort.

Here is how the game went:

There is also the curious case of the “Disgrace of Gijon” at the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain. It was one of the reasons FIFA decreed that all final group-stage games be held at the same time

Before the final round of matches, Algeria and Germany had won the same number of games and were level on points, although the North Africans had an inferior goal difference. On the other hand, Austria won both their matches to lead the group. Algeria defeated Chile in their final match and was second in the group as West Germany and Austria were to meet later in the day for their own final match. 

Knowing that a 1-0 win for West Germany would send both teams through, the Germans scored the opener within ten minutes of the match. The two sides then played the remaining 80 minutes at a snail’s pace, with both sides happy to pass sideways and backward until the end of the match. 

While they did nothing wrong by the rules of the game, it was evident that both teams had contrived to send Algeria out of the tournament

Football is NOT scripted

Most football fans believe that the sport is not scripted and matches take place with no form of interference whatsoever. However, certain referees may make mistakes that can influence results. 

Footballers are usually very competitive athletes who give their all over the course of the 90 minutes they are on the pitch to ensure that they emerge with a win.

Scripting or rigging matches is not allowed in football, and football associations usually punish the teams involved.

Some of the major football associations include FIFA and UEFA, and you can find out how they differ here.

Moreover, scripting football matches makes the game lose its beautiful nature, reducing it to a typical entertainment outlet for fans. 

Theoretically, it is possible for a football match to be scripted. Still, in practice and reality, it is pretty tricky. A football match involves 22 players playing for two teams under two managers or coaches. The sheer number of stakeholders involved on the pitch makes rigging a match seem absurd because it will be quite tricky to get all involved stakeholders to stick to their roles for the entirety of a match. 

Furthermore, it is impossible to carry out rigging at such a scale and ensure that news about the game and how its outcome was determined does not leak. 

Secondly, the idea that football matches may be scripted can easily be refuted by referencing certain matches across different levels, some of which were not even played at the highest level of football. 

The first example is the 2013 Championship Playoff semi-final second leg between Watford and Leicester City. The tie was decided in a chaotic 19-second spell at Vicarage Road. Having lost the first leg 1-0 away, Watford held a 2-1 lead until deep into second-half injury time when Leicester City winger Anthony Knockaert went down in the box under minimal pressure, winning a penalty. 

However, Watford’s goalkeeper saved the resulting penalty and rebound, and the home side immediately launched a counterattack, which ended with Troy Deeney scoring the goal that sent them to the Playoff final with literally the last kick of the game.

This moment represents one of the most accurate depictions of the ups and downs of the beautiful game.

You can watch the actions from the game here:

Another game that completely goes against the idea of football being scripted is the UEFA Champions League final between Chelsea and Bayern Munich in 2012. 

The English side was facing Bayern Munich on their own patch for a piece of silverware they had never previously won. Their quality was not what got them over the line in the match, but their grit and hunger to win their first Champions League title elevated them above the German side in the match.

Chelsea won the game 4-3 on a penalty shootout after Drogba equalised 1-1 in the 88th minute of the game to send the game to extra time and, subsequently, penalties.

Here is how the game went:


Simply put, many football fans would argue that the sport is not scripted, and they would be perfectly within their rights. Similarly, others may say that the sport is scripted and would equally be correct in their submission. 

It is, however, essential to clarify that football is generally not scripted. There may be instances where referees or team officials try to influence the outcomes of games. Still, these occur on very few occasions, and we cannot conclude from these few instances that football is scripted.

In most matches, footballers go into games having no idea of what will happen over the course of 90 minutes. Their job is to follow the manager’s tactics and hope that the tactics give them an edge over their opponents.

Football is not scripted; no one scriptwriter can write ‘the beautiful game.’

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