Spanish football was rocked this weekend when third tier side Eldense threw their league match against Barcelona B by a score of 12-0.
But Andrew Gaffney says Spanish clubs have always been more susceptible to match fixing, and there will be much more to come from Eldense.
Corruption in football
Spanish football has long been under the cloud of suspicion when it comes to ‘maletines’ – essentially cash incentives for a team to perform better or worse than expected. These accusations are thrown around towards the end of the season when clubs with essentially nothing to play for come up against those around the relegation places or challenging for the title.
For example, let’s pretend the current LaLiga table is in fact the way it stands heading into the final day. Real Madrid face Celta Vigo, who can no longer make the Europa League spots and as such have no reason to play well except for pride. Either way, it’s a dead game for Celta.
In this hypothetical situation Barcelona would approach Celta offering them a financial incentive to raise their game and perform to the best of their abilities. This sum would be significant and could be offered to owners, coaches and players. Celta may still lose, of course, but the idea is it’d make the match a lot harder for Madrid and as such increase Barcelona’s chances of winning the title.
The problem is despite the apparent common knowledge of these third party payments very little cases have been proven to be true. Javier Tebas has a specific team which works on all matches that involve suspicious betting patterns or accusations of foul play. Yet when quizzed on the findings the investigation is simply classed as ‘ongoing’. This in turn raises even further suspicions.
‘The Osasuna Case’
Last month saw the first case brought to light by both the government and the league itself. It pertains to matches played on the final two game weeks in the 2013/14 season. Real Betis were already down but played Real Valladolid at home before visiting Osasuna on the final day. The accusation is that Osasuna paid Betis to beat Valladolid then lose the match against them in order to stand a chance of surviving. Both of which happened. In the end it wasn’t enough to preserve their status in LaLiga as Osasuna went down along with Betis.
LaLiga began investigating the matter and in 2015 Angel Vizcay, the ex-General Director of Osasuna, confessed to Tebas that they’d paid clubs to perform better or worse in certain matches. He said Osasuna offered money to Valladolid and Betis to beat Deportivo and Celta Vigo respectively in 2012/13. In 2014 they paid Betis players a total of 650,000 euros to beat Valladolid and lose to them as previously mentioned.
Tebas was accused of blackmailing Vizcay to confess but he naturally denied this. As part of these damning declarations, the league agreed not to press charges against Vizcay but that hasn’t stopped the state from demanding he serve a 14-year prison sentence. Osasuna themselves also presented a case for Vizcay to serve a long sentence as well as those involved in the board meetings with him.
Lawyers, board members, former chairman, directors and the three Betis players are also named in the case.
Monetary incentives ‘banned but tolerated’
Alfredo Relaño of AS spoke about the frequency of third-party payments in May of last year. “Many say they’ve never encountered them but don’t make too much of an effort trying to believe them. They’re widely accepted amongst the people of football.” It’s worth pointing out he’s referring to the process of handing money to a team in order to perform better, not to throw or lose a match.
“Bonuses for winning are banned but tolerated, like certain bars that let you smoke inside. They’re an attempt to counteract a shortcoming in the league format.” Until recently there was no financial motive for teams to finish a place or two higher but, taking a page out of the Premier League’s book, this has since changed. As Relaño points out though, this money goes to the clubs and not the players so the temptation will always be there.
Barcelona B’s opponents accused of throwing a game
At the weekend Barcelona B stole the headlines for beating Eldense 12-0. Almost immediately after the match it became clear something wasn’t right.
Players began posting messages on social media saying something untoward had gone on but couldn’t say too much at the time. It appears now that Eldense’s fate is secured the humiliating 12-0 defeat to Barcelona is in fact just the tip of the iceberg.
The club’s Italian manager, Flippio Vito di Pierro, and the head of the investment company which appointed him, Nobile Capuani, are amongst the five people arrested following the match. Fran Ruiz, Nico Chafer and Maiki Fernandez were the others detained by police. Maiki is one of the most surprising as he was the player who left the field in tears.
It gets even bigger as ‘El Partidazo de COPE’ claim there are four other matches under investigation for various infractions which were done in order for gambling syndicates in China and Italy to profit from.
Prior to a 4-0 loss to Villarreal B it was agreed there would be a minimum of three goals in the game and that Eldense lose by at least three clear goals. The same conditions were agreed for a match against Atletico Baleares which ended 5-0.
The third game was a disaster as one of the players wanted to dupe the Italians betting on the match and change the originally agreed scoreline. The Italians found out and put the player on the bench as punishment. It was supposed to be 3-0 at half-time, which happened, and then 4-1 at full-time which didn’t. It ended 3-1 and everyone lost money. One Eldense player reportedly told another that he’d cost them a lot of money when he stopped the opposition’s attack in injury time. “That was the 4-1, arsehole.”
They failed again in the fourth match against Gava. The plan was to be drawing 0-0 at half-time and lose 0-1. Gava scored in the first half so everyone lost money. Capuani, the leader of the investment company backing the club, was warned that he owed someone 50,000 euros as he left the changing room.
And then came the biggest one: the 12-0 loss to Barcelona. The Italians were cautious of betting in the Asian market so placed a bet of their being more than 4.5 goals. They won. However the players and the Chinese group bet on an 8-0 scoreline at half-time and more than 9.5 goals, 10.5 goals and 11.5 goals at full-time. Those involved from the club earned €150,000 each while the Chinese mafia collected millions.
The investigation continues and only further harms the image of Spanish football. You sense there’s more to come..