Soccer Match-Fixing Net Widens as Spain Arrests 10

Posted on: June 23, 2022, 05:36h. 

Last updated on: February 1, 2023, 01:28h.

Spain is making a concerted effort to tackle match-fixing in sports, and is finding success. Its latest initiative has already led to the arrest of 10 people, with more likely to fall.

Soccer club CD Rota
Spanish Soccer club CD Rota in a team photo last year. At least one of the team’s former players allegedly rigged games and now faces charges. (Image: Europa Sur)

Police arrested 10 people for their alleged involvement in the rigging of soccer matches of the First and Second categories of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF, for its Spanish acronym). This is the latest coup against match-fixing and follows shortly after Spain put 14 people on trial last month for manipulating tennis matches.

The Spanish National Police made the arrests as part of its Operation Conifer, according to media outlet El Confidencial. Among those are several athletes who allegedly used their position to steer the outcome of games in which they participated.

No Points for Match-Fixing

The arrests took place in the provinces of Badajoz, Seville, Almería, and Cádiz. All 10 face accusations of belonging to a criminal organization, corruption between individuals in sports, and defrauding gambling operators.

Among the players that police arrested are four out of southern cities like Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz, Rota, and San Lucar de Barrameda. In addition, another has ties to a team in Zaragoza in Spain’s northern region of Aragon.

The individuals involved allegedly bet large amounts of money on the games whose results they had previously secured. To keep the bets from raising suspicions, they made them in conjunction with bets on other games, like First Division matches, in which the final result was predictable.

Operation Coniferous has been in play for several years. In May 2021, The General Directorate of Gambling Regulation (DGOJ, for its Spanish acronym), which falls under the Ministry of Finance, detected an unusual volume of bets for a Third Division duel and sounded the alarm.

From that moment on, the case was taken over by the National Police Center for Integrity in Betting and Sport (Cenpida, for its Spanish acronym) of the National Police. This is the same unit that, in May 2019, led the Oikos match-fixing investigation. That uncovered a plot that former players Raúl Bravo and Carlos Aranda created to allegedly manipulate First, Second and Third Division matches.

Because Operation Coniferous is still in motion, it’s likely police will make more arrests. At least one of the initial 10 will break his silence in order to cut a deal, giving investigators more data on the scope of the operation.

Crackdown on Match-Fixing Continues

Match-fixing in sports is an issue, but not an exaggerated one. For example, the International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA) reported 42 cases of suspicious betting to the relevant authorities of various countries during the first quarter of 2022. That was 39% fewer cases than in the first quarter of last year.

Given the number of sports contests in action at any time, and the reach the IBIA has, the figure is extremely low. However, there is still a lot of attention directed at the control of sports to rid it of manipulation.

Spain’s LaLiga brought in Stats Perform to lend a hand earlier this year. The IBIA is also present, as it is in other countries that have become targets for manipulators.

The IBIA reported 236 cases of suspicious sports betting to the relevant authorities last year. This number represented a decrease of 13% of the 270 cases reported in 2020.