THE insidious effect of gambling continues to spread like malevolent serpents through sport, with football now held in its grip.

Spot-fixing allegations reached new heights this week when revelations from the Sun on Sunday newspaper implicated six players in a new scandal.

This time the games allegedly involved Football League matches, one a Championship match.

There is no doubt the issue of rigging incidents and events in fixtures goes to the heart of football in England. Indeed, if it goes unchecked it could have fatal consequences.

Some readers may believe that to be over-exaggeration, but it is not. How many times this weekend will anyone watching a game be perplexed by a decision, a booking, an incident, and then question its validity? The credibility of everything witnessed is now up for scrutiny.

For let’s be clear. If the current investigation reveals a deliberate attempt to influence events on the pitch in order to make money illegally, then that shows there is not just easy profit to be generated, but lots and lots of ill-gotten gains.

For on the sums mentioned, no one is going to fork out thousands of pounds to one player to ensure a particular thing happens without there being a many-fold return on such a “dubious” investment.

What football’s authorities need to do, irrespective of any judicial punishment meted out to anyone found guilty of corrupting football – any sport for that matter – is to hand out life bans.

City manager Nigel Worthington was unequivocal on such a swingeing penalty, adding that even those sort of measures might not be enough to rightly fit the crime. I find myself in total agreement with the Minstermen leader. Offenders have to be met by the most severe of punishments to signify loud and clear that such illegality has no place in sport.

There will be those who will say a life ban from the game would be using a sledgehammer to crack the proverbial nut. It’s not exactly match-fixing, it’s spot-fixing and look at how much money football, not just football but a great many sports, are amassing from the various sponsorships of betting companies.

Ironically, the Football League’s present principal sponsor is a betting company.

You can bet on literally anything these days. It’s a windstorm of wagers, a flood of forecasts, a typhoon of tips. Temptation is but a mouse-click, email or tap of a mobile phone away.

But the regularity and availability of betting is far from the point. Football, as indeed all sports, surely has to be above suspicion and that means a booking, red card, corner, throw-in, penalty, goal has to have been committed honestly with no outside influence and with no incentive to yield a dishonest reward.

If not, why would anyone want to pay money to see it, or shell out large sums to sponsor it, or invest in the most modern technology to publicise and broadcast it?

I remember in my youth when the match-fixing scandal of 1962 broke. It subsequently led to prison sentences and life bans almost two years later for a trio of Sheffield Wednesday players – Tony Kay, Peter Swan and David Layne.

The interest in my household was that Kay had only weeks after the reported match-fixed clash between Wednesday and Ipswich been transferred Everton, my dad’s chosen club.

Kay, then an England international and soon to be captain of Everton, was pivotal to the Blues’ 1963 title-winning side. The future was certainly rosy for the Goodison Park faithful with Kay and Swan two possible candidates for the World Cup squad of three years later.

However, all that turned to cinder-track dust when they were found guilty of match-fixing. They were all jailed for various terms, with all three given life bans from football.

While the bans were later shortened to eight years, their potentially illustrious – rather than ignominious – careers were over.

But while the personal cost was so high for that trio, that’s precisely why football’s power-brokers, custodians and upholders of the law must now remain as hard-edged in response as their predecessors were should any of the players involved in the current scandal be found guilty.

There can be no half-measures, no shilly-shallying, and no exceptions. Match-fix, spot-fix, any fix – and you’re out for life, for good.