Mark Hateley, the former Rangers and England striker, has revealed he was offered cash to influence the outcome of a decisive Champions League match between the Scottish champions and Marseilles during the French side's successful 1993 campaign.
Marseilles qualified for the first Champions League final at Rangers' expense and went on to lift the trophy after beating Milan, but it has long been regarded as a tainted triumph. The club was later stripped of the French title they won that season for match-fixing, but their European victory in Munich still stands. Uefa has never sought to remove the honour despite allegations over the intervening years that Bernard Tapie, the club's owner, had attempted to fix matches through bribing referees or players.
Hateley's revelations will reopen the debate over whether the only success by a French team in Europe's top club competition should be struck from the record books. Hateley says that he received a telephone call from a "friend of a friend" from his playing days in France. This unnamed agent offered him "large sums of money" not to play against Marseilles in a crucial group game.
Hateley refused but was to miss the game anyway as in the preceding match against Club Bruges he was sent off and suspended for the Marseilles tie. The red card was greeted with general astonishment in Glasgow at the time and Hateley remains concerned as to whether the referee had also been a target for Tapie and Marseilles. "As soon as that [the red card] came out," said Hateley, "the phone call came straight to the front of my mind again." The Independent's match report from 1993 described his dismissal as "harsh".
In an interview to be broadcast by ITV ahead of Manchester United's Champions League game in Marseilles tonight, and seen by The Independent, Hateley reveals for the first time how Tapie's web of corruption, for which the Marseilles president was eventually to serve six months in a Paris prison, touched British football.
That first Champions League had no semi-finals, instead the winner from two groups of four went straight into the final. Rangers had beaten Leeds United, the English champions, to reach the group stage. They drew 2-2 with Marseilles in the first game, the Scots coming from two down with Hateley scoring a late equaliser. Later that week the Rangers players were in a hotel preparing for a league game against Partick Thistle when Hateley received a telephone call.
"It was a friend of a friend, who had got in touch via certain routes, basically asking me not to play," said Hateley. "It would be financially rewarding for you, he said, should I not play in the Marseilles game.
"He was not an agent I knew, but another agent had given him the number. It was a French-speaking person, offering me large sums of money not to play against Marseilles. It points the finger at a person, or persons, working within that club not wanting me to play."
Hateley was Rangers' main attacking threat, forming a prolific partnership with Ally McCoist, who was yesterday named as the new manager of Rangers. Hateley had enjoyed particular success against Basile Boli, Marseilles' centre-half, once scoring four times in an Under-21 international against a France defence centred on Boli. The game in Marseilles, minus Hateley, finished in a 1-1 draw.
The French side went on to beat Bruges in the last group game – a fixture that later played a part in the prosecution's case against Tapie – while Rangers failed to beat CSKA Moscow to leave Marseilles as group winners. That summer the CSKA coach was to claim he had been offered money to ensure his side lost their group games against Marseilles. He later withdrew the allegations.
"[At the time] I didn't know if it was a hoax or it was real," said Hateley, who described his initial reaction as one of fury. His room-mate, whom he did not name, asked him what was wrong but he did not tell him, and has not told anyone until now. "I know it was real now because of the proceedings that followed. I felt 100 per cent cheated, it was a once in a lifetime chance [for Rangers]. [Marseilles] should be stripped [of the Champions League]. Why haven't the powers-that-be taken action?"
Tapie, once a minister in François Mitterrand's government, was jailed for his part in paying £30,000 to bribe three Valenciennes players, Marseilles' last league opponents before the final. The controversial and colourful Tapie was president of the club from 1987 to 1993. At the trial, Jean-Pierre Bernes, Tapie's right-hand man at the club, admitted: "We used to buy around five or six games a season" at a cost of up to £750,000. Bernes, who received a suspended sentence for his part in L'Affaire OM, is back in the game today as agent to Didier Deschamps, the Marseilles manager, and Samir Nasri, the Arsenal midfielder.
Arsène Wenger was manager of Monaco from 1987 to 1994 and has often said he felt his side had been cheated of two titles. Hateley played for Monaco under Wenger from 1987 to 1990.
Mark Hateley's full interview will be shown on ITV 4 tonight from 7pm. Marseilles v Manchester United is live on ITV 1 from 7.30pmReuse content