Spanish football shaken by match-fixing allegations

December 5th, 2008 - 2:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Madrid, Dec 5 (DPA) Spanish football has always taken pride in avoiding the kind of match-fixing scandals that have so afflicted Italy and other countries.No major players have ever been banned, let alone jailed, and no clubs have ever been relegated for fixing results.

There have occasionally been rumours and whispers of attempted bribery, but practically nothing has ever reached the public domain.

Until now, that is.

This week La Liga has been shaken up by two separate allegations of match-fixing.

It all started Monday, when former Tenerife playmaker Jesus Mora Nieto told Madrid daily El Mundo that he and his second division team-mates had each received $7,606 for losing the last game of the 2007/8 season against Malaga, who needed to win in order to gain promotion.

“I can’t be sure that they (his Tenerife team-mates) took it, but if it (the money) reached me, then I suppose that it also reached them.”

Tenerife duly lost 2-1 and Malaga were promoted ahead of Real Sociedad, whose president, Inaki Badiola, has been complaining about “something strange” ever since.

Badiola claimed Monday that Nieto’s “confession” has vindicated his six-month campaign to have the Malaga-Tenerife match investigated.

Nieto’s allegations have been dismissed as false by the Tenerife players and by Malaga president Fernando Sanz, the former Real Madrid defender and son of 1990s’ Real president Lorenzo Sanz.

Nieto claimed Tuesday - after being threatened with legal action by Tenerife and Malaga - that his claims of the previous day were “inexact.”

The Spanish federation Wednesday sent Nieto’s declarations to the public prosecutor, but without making any official recommendations themselves.

A second possible episode of match-fixing came to light Wednesday, one that might even involve Spanish football federation president Angel Maria Villar.

Television channel Popular TV aired a recording of an alleged conversation between Levante captain Inaki Descarga and then club president Julio Romero, the day after Levante had lost 2-0 away to Athletic Bilbao on the last day of the 2006-7 season, a result which allowed Bilbao to avoid the first ever relegation in their proud history.

The audio recording allegedly has Descarga saying to Romero: “Now they all want their bonus. It is in the safe deposit. If you see the game, you would not say that it was fixed.”

Romero allegedly replies by saying: “Whatever is said, we have to say that we went to win the game.”

The former Levante president then adds that: “We have made sure that, in the federation, Villar knows as well.” Romero then hints that Levante might receive some favours from Villar, for having helped his former club.

Villar - president of the federation since 1988 and re-elected unopposed two weeks ago - played for Athletic Bilbao between 1971 and 1981. He is also a vice-president of both FIFA and UEFA.

Levante were already relegated and the players - with Descarga as their leader - had been complaining for months about not having been paid by Romero.

The team worst effected by the Bilbao-Levante result was Celta Vigo, who were relegated in spite of beating Getafe on the last day.

As expected, all parties involved - Villar, Bilbao, Descarga and Romero - have all denied the allegations, and Romero has threatened legal action against Popular TV.

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