Spanish Police Arrest 2 La Liga Players for Match-Fixing
Spanish authorities arrested two La Liga football players on Tuesday amidst allegations of match-fixing. After suspicious betting activity, players from Valladolid and Huesca are under investigation for possible match-fixing in recent matches against Valencia. Raul Bravo and Borja Fernandez were the La Liga players arrested.
Valencia needed the win over Valladolid to qualify for the Champions League. Both goals in its 2-0 victory came against questionable defense.
Sportsbooks flagged the betting on certain matches as suspicious, because the games saw as much as 14 times the normal amount wagered. The scandal could go much deeper than one or two matches, as similar allegations plague Spanish soccer’s second division.
Borja Fernandez, a starter for Vallodolid during the match in question, was arrested on Tuesday morning. The 38-year old defensive midfielder began his career with Real Madrid, but also represented Mallorca, Getafe, Eibar, and Valladolid in his 11-year career.
Sunday’s game was the last game in Fernandez’s La Liga career. He had announced his retirement earlier in May.
11 Football Players Arrested in All
Authorities said that 11 players in all were arrested on Tuesday, though only 2 played in Spain’s top division, La Liga. Law enforcement told Europa Press that none of La Liga’s top clubs were involved in alleged match-fixing.
Also, authorities pointed out that no football clubs are under suspicion — only individual players. Still, the allegations could rock La Liga, as they underpin the integrity of the sport both to fans and to bettors.
Police said the name of their sting operation is “Oikos”. (Oikos is an Ancient Greek word with three related meanings: the family, the family’s property, and it house.) A police spokesman said, “Police agents are carrying out an operation against an organisation allegedly involved in match-fixing in professional football.
Authorities suggested that the scandal involves Spain’s top three divisions. The statement read, “The investigation has allowed us to corroborate that those investigated reached agreements with different players to ‘fix’ at least three games relating to the [Spanish] first, second and third divisions.”
“One of those games fixed, the second division game, had a strong impact on bets, with [betting] companies registering a volume of money 14 times higher than usual for that division.”
Huesca Matches Allegedly Fixed
Officials said a match in the second division between SD Huesca and Nastic Tarragona in the penultimate round of the Segunda Division was deemed suspicious. Huesca already received promotion to La Liga, but lost 1-0 to Tarragona, which was fighting to escape relegation.
A suspicous amount of betting took place from the Ukraine and Asian countries, which caused 30 prominent sportsbooks to suspend betting on the match. As the game stood at 0-0 at halftime, bettors in those countries began to wager large sums on a Tarragona victory.
Francesco Baranca, the general director of Federbet, said the bookmakers detected “very unusual betting activity” made on the match. Baranca added that gamblers made as much as €10 million on the suspicious outcome.
La Liga Statement
La Liga praised Spanish police in their quick and efficient investigation. The statement read: “La Liga wants to highlight the extraordinary work done by the Spanish police to dismantle an organised criminal group that achieved financial benefits through match-fixing in our country.”
“La Liga reported on May 29, 2018, the game between SD Huesca and Gimnastic Tarragona for a suspected sport corruption crime.”
The 1st Division of Spanish football touted Operation: Oikos as the culmination of an integrity system La Liga’s officials instituted 5 years ago. La Liga added, “This police operation highlights the systems of protecting integrity that La Liga put in place five seasons ago, to protect all football competitions in Spain from being stained, to be effective in detecting and reporting games that have allegedly been manipulated.”
“La Liga continues to work to prevent, monitor, investigate and report any possible match-fixing of a game with the aim to keeping the game clean.”