The line between winning and losing is often thin.  Throughout the history of sport, sportsmen and women have consistently demonstrated that they will go to remarkable lengths to gain any advantage they can, no matter how marginal.

For this reason, sports governing bodies implement rules and regulations.  The purpose of these is to set out the boundaries of what is permissible, and what is impermissible, in any given sport.  Rules and regulations should provide clarity to the participants and they should set out the consequences of a breach.

As a result, some of the most controversial sporting cases stem from the application (or misapplication) of the applicable rules and regulations and the interpretation of any grey areas within them.  Many of the most famous such cases are, in the time-honoured fashion, branded with the suffix “-gate”.  Those include the following:

  • Grannygate: An eligibility scandal which first arose in the world of rugby union in 2000 (though was followed by a similar scandal in the world of rugby league in 2006). The scandal concerned rules that allowed a player to qualify for a country based on his parents’ or grandparents’ country of birth and focused primarily on the Welsh national team.  A number of players were alleged to have no valid Welsh connection and, as a result of an investigation, Shane Howarth and Brett Sinkinson (ostensibly New Zealanders) were banned from representing Wales despite having accumulated almost forty caps between them at the time of their bans.  Neither could demonstrate eligibility to play for the Welsh national team.
  • Deflategate: A controversy which arose in the National Football League (the “NFL”) regarding an allegation that the New England Patriots team had tampered with footballs that were then used in a match against the Indianapolis Colts on 18 January 2015. The allegations centred on Tom Brady, a player that many consider to be one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.  Brady was initially banned for four games of the 2015 season though that decision was appealed internally, then to the federal court and then to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals before the ban was accepted.
  • Bloodgate: A scandal that involved the English rugby team Harlequins and their use of fake blood capsules during a match against Leinster on 12 April 2009. The Harlequins player Tom Williams was found to have departed the field of play with a faked blood injury in order that a tactical substitution could take place.  An investigation by the European Rugby Cup and the Rugby Football Union led to Williams being banned for twelve months (reduced to four months on appeal), a ban of three years for then Director of Rugby Dean Richards, a two year ban for the club’s physiotherapist and a £260,000 fine for the club.

This list of “-gates” is by no means exhaustive.  Other sporting “-gates” include: Bibgate, Bottlegate, Bountygate, Bumpgate, Bumpergate, Buttongate, Clockgate, Crashgate, Homeworkgate, Indygate, Lleytgate, Lochtegate, Moggigate, Napgate, Ovalgate, Partgate, Ponygate, Seatgate, Shouldergate, Sirengate, Sonicsgate, Spingate, Tattoogate, and Tripgate.  English football fans of a certain age may also seek to add Gareth Southgate to that list, by reference to the national team’s departure from the European Championships in 1996 after a penalty shoot-out against the German national team, though that might be stretching the idea too far.

Whatever you believe is the most controversial of the sporting “-gates”, and we would love to hear your thoughts in this respect, it is likely that the list above will not remain closed for long…