Spanish league president says player revealed match-fixing
MADRID (AP) — Spanish league president Javier Tebas testified in a match-fixing trial on Thursday, saying it was a former player who told him a result had been fixed.
The case involves a top-tier game between Levante and Zaragoza at the end of the 2010-11 season. Prosecutors say there is evidence 965,000 euros (nearly $1 million) was paid to Levante’s players to lose the match in the final round of the season. Zaragoza won 2-1 to secure its spot in the first division, with Deportivo La Coruña being demoted.
Tebas did not reveal which player made the allegation but said he played for Zaragoza and didn’t want to be linked to the investigation out of fear of retaliation from other players. Tebas also said the unidentified player was a client of his law firm at the time.
Tebas, who became the league’s president in 2013, said he warned then-Levante president Quico Catalán, who later also testified and said he did not recall receiving a call from Tebas about the alleged match-fixing attempt.
Last week, lawyers for Zaragoza and some players unsuccessfully called for a mistrial claiming Tebas broke lawyer-client privilege when the league brought the allegation to authorities.
More than 40 people have been accused and have appeared before a judge in Valencia, including dozens of players and former México coach Javier Aguirre, who managed Zaragoza at the time.
They could face two years in prison and a six-year ban from soccer if found guilty. They have all denied any wrongdoing.
Among the 36 players accused are Ander Herrera, now with Paris Saint-Germain; former Leicester midfielder Vicente Iborra; former Atlético Madrid captain Gabi Fernández; River Plate midfielder Leonardo Ponzio; Serbian defender Ivan Obradovic; Lazio forward Felipe Caicedo; Itailan defender Maurizio Lanzaro; and Uruguay striker Cristhian Stuani.
Prosecutors said players on both teams were aware of the match-fixing. They said they found evidence the money was transferred to Levante players after analyzing tax reports and banking transactions at the time.
A lower court had shelved the case but it was reopened last year after an appeal by prosecutors in Valencia, where Levante is based and where the match was played.
Even if found guilty, it’s unlikely that those being accused would face actual prison time because sentences of two years or less for first-time offenders are often suspended in Spain.
Zaragoza returned to the second division in 2014. Levante is currently in Spain’s top league.