Spanish federal law enforcement authorities on Tuesday announced they plan to arrest 11 individuals for their participation in a match-fixing scheme that penetrated the highest levels of professional soccer in the country.
The investigation is just the latest blemish for a sport that has been roiled by gambling scandals. Last fall, Belgian officials charged 19 people, including the coach of 2018 top-division champion Club Bruges after two matches were allegedly fixed.
According to a release from the National Police Tuesday, the operation involved active and retired players within La Liga, Spain’s top division. Games were targeted in La Liga and the second and third levels. The attempted fix in a third-level game failed, which prompted the players involved to compensate for betting losses by fixing another match.
Raids were scheduled to take place all across Spain as part of the investigation, authorities said.
In one of the alleged fixed games, a second-division contest, sportsbooks reported betting totals roughly 14 times the normal amount for a typical contest in that league.
La Liga Filed Complaint
According to The Guardian, La Liga officials became suspicious a year ago about a second-division match. In a statement, La Liga said the investigation’s results show that regulations to monitor and combat match fixing work as intended. The investigation included Europol, soccer officials, and Spain’s General Directorate of Gaming.
We would like to thank the extraordinary job done by the national police to break up this organized group that had been engaged in criminal activities to obtain economic benefits by fixing matches on Spanish soil,” the statement read.
The match fixing involved contests held at the beginning or the end of the season, according to the police release. Not only did it involve the final outcome of the game but proposition bets – such as the number of corner kicks – as well.
Members of the teams targeted for match fixing were approached, with a preference for team captains. Those who agreed to participate received two payments. The first came prior to the game while the second was given once the desired outcome was achieved.
Spanish media outlets indicated that a former Real Madrid and Spanish National Team player, Raul Bravo, and the president of second-division club Sociedad Deportiva Huesca were among those arrested.
Huesca Match Alleged as Fixed
ESPN reported one of the fixed matches took place last May between Huesca and Gimnastic de Tarragona in the waning days of the second division season. Huesca had already clinched promotion to the top division, while Nastic was in danger of being relegated to the third division.
Nastic ended up winning the match 1-0 thanks to a goal in the 72nd minute.
Numerous sportsbooks, though, pulled all betting opportunities for the match once they determined an aberrant amount of money was being wagered on a nil-nil halftime score as well as a Nastic win.
This season, in the top division, Huesca won just seven of 38 matches. With 33 points, the club finished 19th out of 20 teams and will be relegated back to Spain’s second division when the new season starts in August.