By Jonathan Copping, Sports Lawyer, Bolt Burdon Law Firm, London, United Kingdom
On 28 July 2017, it was announced that Liga de Futbol Professional, commonly known as La Liga, the organising body of the top two divisions of Spanish football, is launching its own in-house monitoring software in the continuing fight against illegal betting and match-fixing.
In February of this year, three former footballers of Spanish La Liga team, Real Betis, were charged with match-fixing, following an allegation that they were paid €650,000 by directors of rival club Osasuna, to help Osasuna stay in the Primera Division in the 2013-14 season. If found guilty by a Spanish Court, they could go to jail.
Court documentation shows that the money was paid to Amaya Carazo, Jordi Figueras and Xavi Torres to enable Real Betis to beat Valladolid in the penultimate game and then lose to Osasuna in the final game of the season. Both results occurred, but all three of Real Betis, Valladolid and Osasuna were relegated.
The charging of the three former footballers, put the integrity of La Liga in the spotlight. Thus, La Liga has now decided to replace the existing integrity software provided by a third-party, with new software that is ready to go live for the start of the 2017-18 season on 18 August 2017.
Following the announcement, Alfredo Lorenzo Mena, the director of integrity and security for La Liga stated:
“We have been very satisfied with the work of our partners, but we need to enhance our monitoring process, and if we manage things in-house, we can utilise our knowledge of the lower divisions. We are developing our own software and have our own team of analysts. Under the new system, perhaps 50-60% of the analysis can be attributed to the software, but the other intelligence we will bring to the situation is very important.
We have tailor-made resources to monitor our competitions and perhaps other leagues and associations could follow this example in due course. We have such a strong integrity programme and we do believe that our competition is well protected.”
“The effort we are putting into education and prevention is of paramount importance. We are investing time and money, but it’s not an expenditure; it’s an investment for a better future.
We have the best players and teams in the world so we have to be the best in terms of protecting the competition.”
This, no doubt, is a positive step by La Liga and it will be interesting to how effective their new software proves to be in practice. That having been said, match-fixing and illegal betting are more likely to be prominent in the lower divisions where players do not command such high salaries and the monitoring systems are less developed.
It will also be interesting to see what other Leagues outside Spain follow the La Liga initiative and strengthen their own internal monitoring systems in the fight against illegal betting and match-fixing, which has been described as ‘the ultimate football crime’ and is undermining the integrity of the world’s most popular sport.
Jonathan Copping can be contacted by e-mail at ‘JonathanCopping@boltburdon.co.uk’