Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

La Liga match-fixing probe a wake-up call

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

Conventional wisdom still says there is a safe distance between spot-fixing in the lower divisions and match-fixing in the Premier League.

That opinion went unchallenged in Spain – until April.

With five matches left to play in La Liga, mid-table Levante, with nothing to play for, entertained Deportivo La Coruna, in desperate need of points to avoid relegation.

Levante were 3-0 down at half-time and in the dressing room during the break, midfielder Jose Barkero accused some of his team-mates of deliberately not trying. A heated exchange that ended with flying bottles and Barkero being calmed down by then Levante coach Juan Ignacio Martinez.

Levante lost the game 4-0 – but the following day Barkero apologised to his team-mates for the accusation and subsequently gave a press conference in which he said he regretted suggesting that they'd deliberately lost.

Sergio Ballesteros, the captain, also gave a press conference and claimed he would never take payment to throw a result.

He also said he never placed bets on matches. The players at the centre of the storm played very little part in what was left of Levante's season and all but one moved on in the summer.

The Spanish Football League appeared to dismiss the retraction of the original accusation and its recently installed new president, Javier Tebas, admitted the match had been under investigation before it was even played. The game is understood to be one of several matches from last season still being looked at.

I think you can call that a wake-up call.

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