LFP launches match-fixing probe

Investigation into Racing - Hércules match first of its kind in Spain

Betting patterns on the match raised the alarm at Uefa's fraud detection unit.
Betting patterns on the match raised the alarm at Uefa's fraud detection unit. NACHO CUBERO (DIARIO AS)

The Spanish Professional Football League (LFP) has opened an investigation over the suspected rigging of a second division match between Racing and Hércules played on June 8 at the former's El Sardinero stadium. It is the first time a match-fixing probe has been launched by the LFP and coincides with a Uefa report that reached the same conclusion over the match.

The large number of bets placed on the game set alarm bells ringing at the seat of Uefa's Fraud Detection System (BFDS) and at Austrian company SKS365, which monitors all legal online betting in Europe. Both concluded that the match was fixed after more than 750,000 euros was placed on Racing winning by two goals or more. Online bookmaker Betfair noted "alarming levels of confidence" that Hércules would be winning at halftime but would lose the match. Racing won 3-0 after Hércules had spurned a number of gilt-edged chances in the first half. All of the home side's goals were scored in the second 45, two inside the final 10 minutes.

Uefa analysts also took into account the previous record of both sides and the circumstances surrounding the match, before which the LFP had handed Guadalajara a punishment of administrative relegation for alleged capital increase fraud. That threw Racing a lifeline in its battle against relegation, which was eventually won by Murcia, sending Racing down to Segunda B. Hércules had already secured its survival. The Alicante-based club's match against Murcia also registered a four out of five on the BFDS fraud evaluation scale.

Hércules was investigated in 2010 for allegedly buying results in the season it won promotion to Primera. Principal shareholder Enrique Ortiz was recorded offering bribes to opposition teams. The recordings were made as part of the Brugal corruption case, an investigation into corruption in the waste management business in Alicante, but were never handed to the LFP as the judge handling the Brugal investigation considered it would constitute an "invasion of privacy." Little matter — match-fixing was not made a crime in Spain until later that same year.

The Racing-Hércules file is now in the hands of the LFP's disciplinary committee, comprised of three independent lawyers. It was this body that ordered the administrative relegation of Guadalajara and must now decide what action, if any, to take against the two clubs. The LFP has also requested the Spanish Football Federation open an investigation against the players to determine if any were party to match-fixing.

Hércules has refused to comment but Racing issued a statement expressing its absolute confidence in its players and has placed itself at the service of the LFP and Uefa. The new LFP president, Javier Tebas, made battling match-fixing in Spain one of his priorities upon taking up the post. Miguel Cardenal, head of the CSD Higher Sports Council, said recently that match-fixing "represents the same threat to sport as doping did 20 years ago," while the National Police's UDEF financial crimes unit is investigating possible cases at the behest of the anti-corruption prosecutor.

SKS365 said there had also been suspicious betting patterns of up to five million euros in two games last season featuring Primera División side Levante.

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