Calm after the storm. LaLiga reports quiet betting markets after 32 matchfixing arrests

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By Paul Nicholson

February 26 – The first weekend of football in Spain’s leagues after the dramatic arrests of 32 suspected matchfixers last week has seen a welcome return to normality in the Spanish football betting markets.  LaLiga head of integrity Alfredo Lorenzo, said that the “from the intelligence we have on Segunda B and the Third Division, it is completely flat.”

“Maybe this is by chance, but I think it is because we have dismantled a matchfixing and criminal organisation, and the investigation is not closed. We are monitoring and investigation and working in exactly the same way as we were before the arrests.”

The Spanish case is likely to prove a landmark in the battle against matchfixers in Europe and could prove to be a model for a new level of co-operation between federations and law enforcement bodies. Lorenzo will be speaking at the Tackling Matchfixing conference March 9-10 in London on the Spanish case, outlining how the matchfixers were identified and investigated, and the co-operation process with Spain’s National Police that led to the arrests.

Lorenzo, a former Spanish police officer, said: “We have been working on this investigation for more than a year. It has been a big focus for this organisation.”

LaLiga have filed more than 40 reports to Spanish police since February 2017, and more are likely to be filed. The reports were not just a list of betting market irregularities but also included LaLiga’s own investigations – including names of matchfixers and their links and roles in the criminal activity. This gave the police a foothold for their own investigations.

The eventual arrests included the matchfixing gang’s two main ringleaders – both former players – as well as a referee.  As many as 25 players were involved in fixing matches and arrests included a number of runners who were placing bets, mainly on the Asian betting markets.

Along with the arrests comes a whole new level of information on how matches are fixed and gangs formed. Lorenzo says that matchfixers target key players in defensive positions and particularly goalkeepers and team captains – essentially players who can ensure a game is lost or a high score can be achieved.

What is not clear is whether the arrested matchfixers, about 90% of whom were Spanish, were working with organised crime in Asia or on their own, though certainkly they had links in Asia and China in particular.

LaLiga’s Integrity Department has been monitoring betting markets using its own software (TYCHE) since the beginning of the season, and has its own team of analysts who are specialists in Spanish football, including the third and fourth tier as well as women’s football.

The bulk of this case is now before the court in the Spanish city of Zafra in Southern Spain, a region where a bulk of the instances reported too place. But Lornezo says that while this is a very significant breakthrough and praises the work of the police, the investigations are not over. “The filing of new reports from other matches that are under investigation by LaLiga’s integrity department cannot be ruled out, albeit only when the secrecy order has been lifted,” he said.

By the time Lorenzo speaks at the tackling Matchfixing conference in London March 9-10, the court will likely have unsealed more information surrounding the criminal gang and their activities. Information that will provide learnings for everyone involved in the battle against the biggest threat facing the integrity of football.

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