Spanish government seeks evidence in matchfixing case

MADRID - Spanish government lawyers have appealed a ruling by a judge in Alicante that denied access to taped conversations and other evidence which appeared to suggest promoted La Liga club Hercules were involved in matchfixing.

The evidence, widely reproduced in local media including daily El Pais, was collected as part of a separate investigation and the judge in Alicante, where Hercules are based, ruled it should not be released.

"We are going to try to get hold of everything so that we can take the investigation forward," said a spokesman for Spain's government Sports Council (CSD), on behalf of whom the appeal was filed.

A copy of the 14-page document justifying the government's position was obtained by Reuters on Friday after it was sent to the judge in Alicante.

Hercules, who deny any wrongdoing, were promoted to Spain's top flight following more than a decade in the second division after finishing second behind Real Sociedad last season.

The club said in a statement on Thursday that suggestions the goalkeeper of rival club Cordoba had been paid to throw a match at the beginning of May which Hercules won 4-0 were wholly false.

"Hercules categorically denies this action and publically reiterates that (their) sporting conduct in this match (against Cordoba) and all those played during the season rigorously respected competition rules," the club said.

Media reports about the match had contained no hint of irregularity and the performance of the Cordoba goalkeeper, Raul Navas, had been widely praised, they added.


Abraham Paz, a Hercules club captain, was quoted as saying on Friday that the players would accept the CSD's decision to investigate but suggested the Spanish second division had long been prone to matchfixing.

"You would then have to investigate back 15 years... or investigate all the matches on the final day of last season because with 30 minutes left there were a lot of teams winning three or four nil," Paz said.

"I cannot deny the obvious, the squad is concerned by everything that is going on because it's not nice seeing yourself in the media for this reason," he added.

Cordoba said in a statement on their website this week they hoped the judge's decision not to release the evidence would help draw a veil over the case and "restore the reputation" of their keeper.

Seville-based club Real Betis, who finished just outside the promotion spots in fourth last season, have urged the Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) and the Sports Council to act.

"If Hercules have done wrong they should be given the corresponding punishment," Betis coach Pepe Mel said on the club's website on Friday.

"Not long ago in Italy they had the guts to send an historic club like Juventus down to the second division," Mel added in reference to a Serie A matchfixing scandal which led to Juve's demotion from the top flight.

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