Top Spanish footballers arrested in ‘match-fixing’ raids
La Liga had been investigating for more than a year before police made arrests on Tuesday.
Top-flight footballers were among those arrested in Spain on Tuesday as police swooped down on a suspected match-fixing ring.
Nine raids across the country resulted in 11 arrests, police said, as they investigated attempts to profit from gambling on lower-league football games.
“Among those to be detained are both active and retired players from the first division, players active in the second division, and presidents and directors of a club,” the police said.
La Liga, Spanish football’s governing body, said it contacted authorities about a possible illegal scheme and had worked with them on the operation.
“The investigation has established that those under investigation came to arrangements with different players to ‘fix’ at least three games in the first, second and third divisions,” La Liga said in a statement.
A lawyer for Huesca, recently demoted from Spanish football’s top division, confirmed several people from the club had been detained on a warrant issued by a local court in the northeastern town.
A spokesman for La Liga said the police operation followed a complaint it had made over a May 2018 match.
The police said in the case of one second-division match, more than 14 times the usual amount of money was bet. It did not specify the teams involved in the game.
National daily El Pais reported the investigation began after Huesca’s 1-0 defeat to Gimnastic de Tarragona at the end of their 2017-18 season in the Segunda, or second division. Huesca had already won promotion to La Liga at the time of the match.
The lawyer for Huesca did not directly name those detained. But El Pais reported they included club President Agustin Lasaosa as well as the head of the club’s medical department.
“We haven’t been able to speak to the president yet. However he will be able to give opportune explanations in due course,” the club lawyer, Pedro Camarero, told reporters at Huesca’s stadium.
“Internally within the club we are not worried and are at the disposal of whatever the courts request of us. For now, we do not know how things will develop,” he said.
Huesca recently finished second-last in La Liga and will be back in Segunda next season.
Javier Tebas, La Liga’s president, told sports daily Marca the league had been investigating for more than a year.
“It really hurts because it affects a club I love, but the most important thing is to end corruption in football,” said Tebas, who was president of Huesca in the 1990s.
A source told the AFP news agency Real Valladolid was also under investigation.
In a statement, Valladolid said it maintained “its commitment and fight against corruption or any type of illegal act that diminishes the integrity of sporting competitions”.
Match-fixing has happened before in Spanish football.
In February 2018, at least 24 people were arrested nationwide in an operation into alleged match-fixing in Spain’s lower leagues.
The ring was accused of using players to force situations such as corners or penalties in games in the third and fourth tiers of Spanish football. They would then make bets on these situations.
The conspirators under investigation on that occasion had connections with China, where the bets were placed.
“We want to thank the National Police for the extraordinary work done to dismantle what appears to be an organised criminal group dedicated to obtaining economic benefits through the predetermination of football matches,” a La Liga spokesman said.