Bill Phillips, 73, is a tenured British boxing referee who has worked on more than 100 international events and officiated nearly 30,000 boxing matches in his career.
Phillips was the first British referee to officiate at the Olympic games in 24 years in Beijing. That would typically be a cause for celebration, but the level of corruption and bribery that Phillips was exposed to soured him on international competition. Detailing an incident in Kazakhstan, Phillips said that he was bribed with prostitutes immediately after arriving.
“I was still unpacking when I heard a knock at the door,” Phillips told The Times. “So I open it and a young girl, absolutely stunning, is standing there. ‘Mr Phillips (she knew my name), I’ve come to keep you company.’ I said, ‘No, I’m okay thank you.’ So she went. Then about an hour or two later, two came to the door. I started laughing. I said, ‘I can’t handle one, let alone two.’
“I’ve been married for 48 years. I have two sons and eight grandchildren. But that wasn’t the only reason for saying no. It’s a bribe, isn’t it? You’re in their pocket. I don’t need all that crap. I’ve been lucky to have good jobs. I also like to be able to sleep at night.”
Bill Phillips Details Other Bribery Attempts And Widespread Corruption in Olympic Boxing
During that same trip, Phillips says he was offered $500 cash in an envelope and was invited to a banquet that featured multiple naked women. Calling bribery in the world of boxing an “endemic,” Phillips discussed the dangers of accepting bribes as a referee and the danger it poses to the athletes.
“If I had accepted bribes it’s the boxers who would have suffered and they have always come first for me. I’ve refereed about 30,000 fights and no boxer I’ve had has ever spent a night in hospital.”
Selected to referee in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Phillips said that bribery was such an issue that referees and judges had to be moved around causing him to miss out on officiating an Olympic final.
“I was in my late fifties. The first Englishman for 24 years. I had the final and I deserved it, based on the way I was performing. Wayne Rose, an Australian I’d stake my reputation on, was also there. Two of the most honest officials in the sport didn’t get a final.”
When it comes to boxing in the Olympics, Phillips fears that it is mostly likely irredeemable. “I fear Olympic boxing is doomed,” he said. “I can’t even watch the Olympic boxing on the TV.”