Pressure mounts for Herculean investigation

After La Liga Loca poo-pooed the notion that there was as much chance of a Spanish journalist swilling around for answers in the country’s latest match-fixing scandal as Sergio Ramos dedicating his life to celibacy, it seems that the blog may have been more than a little harsh. El País have stood up to the libel plate.

For those already left behind by such seedy-sounding beginnings, a rather big story has broken in Spain - currently number two on the El País website - concerning allegations that the owner of the Alicante-based club Hércules Enrique Ortiz, was somehow, possibly, allegedly, maybe, potentially involved in some funny business surrounding a second division match in the side’s successful promotion campaign, last season.

These allegations were highlighted by a judge currently investigating Ortiz - amongst many others - in a case with enough markers that would instantly win any game of corruption bingo in Spain: the east coast, waste-collection, construction company owners, football, moustaches and fat-blokes with cigars.

Whilst investigating the ‘Caso Brugal’, the judge reportedly stumbled upon a recorded conversation allegedly between Ortiz and a family friend that suggested that the round 36 clash in May between Hércules and Córdoba  - a 4-0 win for Hércules - was not as it seemed with the Hércules club captain, Tote, and opposition keeper Raúl Navas implicated in some game-tampering naughtiness.

Up until Tuesday, not much more was known than that with the judge informing the government and relevant footballing bodies that he would not be handing over the recordings as it was part of his ongoing investigation into far more serious and very illegal matters.

However, Tuesday’s edition of El País published details of what they claimed was the recording in question where Ortiz allegedly tells a friend on the phone that “I gave him {Raúl Navas} €100,000...in Tote’s first goal, he threw himself in the other direction.” The newspaper also reported that Ortiz admitted trying to buy off another side in a match that took place two rounds before.

“We offered Salamanca €150,000. They didn’t want it but also beat them 4-0.”

The match in question against Córdoba can be seen here, although it does have the unfortunate remark from the commentator that their keeper Raúl Navas “is one of the best goalkeepers in the division but this was not his day.”

As was reported in Monday’s LLL, Navas denies all allegations as does the Hércules player, Tote, who spoke on Tuesday.  “Let them prove all this and if they do let them punish us,” said the club captain, “but they aren’t going to as nothing happened.”

Hércules have also put out an official statement saying that the club “publicly and categorically deny the information which appeared in the media in relation to its social and sporting behaviour” and say that the matter is with their lawyers.

Several newspapers in Spain advise that they have tried to contact Enrique Ortiz himself for his response but have failed as he is away from Alicante on holiday.

Real Betis - the club who would benefit from Hércules having their promotion to la Primera cancelled - have called for both the government and the Spanish FA (RFEF) to look into the affair.

However, the latter is unlikely to take place as match-fixing will not be a crime in Spain until a new law is passed at the end of the year. Nevertheless a spokesman from the country’s Superior Council of Sport (CSD) has said that the RFEF must investigate immediately. “The Federation is the organisation with the power to impose sanctions.”

But writing in Mundo Deportivo, Jaume Miserachs notes that any investigation into the affair would require a full and proper process allowing time for the accused to defend themselves and the prosecution to gather their evidence. “Is there time to do all this? And after all that, what happens next?” asks Miserachs pointing out that the Spanish season starts in just over three weeks.

That’s a question that not even a blog with the extraordinary mental capacity and brain power like La Liga Loca can give an answer to.

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