Insider Sport: On The Ball – Oikos probe asks tough questions on Spanish football integrity

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This week’s OTB reports on integrity allegations, club acquisitions and the possible reintroduction of safe standing areas in English football stadiums.

Spanish match-fixing allegations lead to nine arrests.
A total of nine people were arrested after corruption allegations rocked Spanish football’s second division earlier this week. 

It has been reported that the latest arrests relate to corruption surrounding match fixing that led to a second tier club ensuring they made the play-offs. 

Law enforcement in Spain issued the following statement: “To make the payment different individuals and legal entities directly and indirectly related to the club, advanced various amounts in cash.”

These arrests follow a similar incident earlier in the year, which saw a host of Spanish first and second tier footballers arrested over allegations of match fixing and involvement in a criminal organisation, according to Spanish newspaper El Pais.

Among the players involved then were Getafe’s Samuel Saiz, who spent last season on loan at English Championship side, Leeds United. Former Real Madrid player Raul Bravo, Real Valladolid’s Borja Fernandez and Deportivo de La Coruna’s Inigo Lopez Montana are also all under investigation.

The problems in the country led to its launching a new national commission focused on the prevention of sports corruption and betting-related fraud is due to be created in Spain, after getting the green light from the country’s Ministry of the Presidency. 

Under the new commission, members will set out a plan to “develop action plans [and] recommendations or diagnoses to detect, prevent and combat illegal actions in the field of sports competitions and fraud in betting.”

“Corruption linked to the manipulation of sports competitions and betting-related fraud are two of the greatest threats to sport and horse racing, as it undermines each sport’s core values ​​and ruins the experience for fans and spectators,” the Ministry stated at the time.

The acquisition of a majority in Mumbai City FC has been confirmed by the City Football Group
The City Football Group (CFG), owners of English Premier League champions Manchester City, has confirmed a deal to acquire a majority stake in its eighth club, Indian Super League side Mumbai City FC.

The investment marks a major move into Indian football for the group, of which it had been eyeing for some time. 

As part of the agreement, which is pending the approval of certain football bodies, CFG will become the 65% majority shareholder of the Club, alongside existing shareholders, acclaimed actor and film producer, Ranbir Kapoor and Bimal Parekh who combined will hold the remaining 35% of shares. 

Commenting on the acquisition and the opportunities it brings to all parties, Chairman of City Football Group Khaldoon Al Mubarak said: “We believe that this investment will deliver transformative benefits to Mumbai City FC, to City Football Group and to Indian Football as a whole. City Football Group is committed to the future of football in India and to the potential for Mumbai City FC within that future.

“We are very much looking forward to playing an active role in Mumbai City FC’s fan and local communities, and working with our co-owners to further develop the Club as quickly as possible.”

The move bolsters CFG’s growing portfolio of clubs, with it already owning English Premier League Champions, Manchester City FC, also comprises New York City FC in the US, Melbourne City FC in Australia, Yokohama F. Marinos in Japan, Club Atletico Torque in Uruguay, Girona FC in Spain and Sichuan Jiuniu FC in China.

Welcoming the City Football Group to the Indian Super League and Indian Football, Nita Ambani said: “It’s a landmark occasion that celebrates the remarkable rise of Indian football and brings to life our vision for the beautiful game in India.

“It is a great endorsement of the increasing appeal of Indian football and for all football fans in India, this is a moment to take pride in our football, our culture and the opportunity we present to the world in developing the sport. The power and potential of our youth makes India the most exciting global opportunity in the world today, in every field, and especially in sport.”

The deal follows the news that United States-based Silver Lake made a £389million million equity investment into the CFG.

Lib Dems call for safe standing areas to be reintroduced in English football stadiums
The Liberal Democrats look set to challenge a 1994 legislation which banned safe standing areas in England’s top two leagues as it calls for its reintroduction in all seater football stadia.

In the party’s 2015 manifesto, the Lib Dems backed ‘rail seating’ stating it could be used in the same way as other European clubs, which would give fans the freedom to choose how they watch the matches and would also allow clubs a greater variation of ticket prices.

The ban on safe standing was introduced following the recommendation of the Taylor Report which looked into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, an event which saw the deaths of 96 football fans. 

As a result of those recommendations, safe standing was outlawed in the top two English football leagues with many clubs needing to redevelop their stadiums to remove the terraces. 

Layla Moran, culture spokeswoman for the Lib Dems, stated: “Football matches in this country should not be subject to the bureaucracy of executives and ministers who are stuck in the past, and don’t understand the game. People want to see safe-standing in their stadiums.”

As well as the Lib Dems’ desire to reintroduce safe standing to all football stadia, the Department of Culture for Media and Sport has already begun working on reintroducing safe standing into all levels of English football after it commissioned an investigative report that was released in October. 

The report stated: “The risks associated with standing in seated areas are greatest at moments of excitement, which is not mitigated by the all-seater policy. However, any change to current policy must be based on robust evidence that such a change would ensure equivalent or improved spectator safety.

“There is significant scope for further research to build this evidence base, requiring tolerance within existing policy to trial different standing areas – alongside monitoring clubs taking different approaches to the management of standing – to provide evidence of impact.”

Balbuena describes Paraguayan integrity allegations as a ‘matter of extreme delicacy’
Javier Balbuena, former director general of Paraguay’s CONAJZAR gambling commission, expects consequences will follow the recent appeal against Club Olimpia president Marco Trovato.

The appeal which requested Paraguayan Football Association (APF) to open an investigation into Trovato came as a result of an agreement between 10 out of the 12 Paraguayan Primera División clubs and was centered upon the Olympia president’s alleged involvement with a sports betting company.

This allegation, which was first reported by the La Nación newspaper group, relates to the uncovering of information which pointed to Trovato CISA being the parent company to Fastpay, the electronic payment system for sports betting in Paraguay.

Balbuena explained to SBC Noticias: “The question about the legality or not of the firm that provides payment gateway services is not an issue that can be analyzed from a gambling regulation point of view, but rather by the corresponding office of the Central Bank of Paraguay, an institution that is responsible for the regulation of financial intermediation companies and others related to the management of economic resources.

“The environment became confusing when condiments were introduced, such as the violation of the FIFA Code of Ethics and the insinuation of possible commission of damages on the part of members of Paraguayan football in regards to results from first division football matches.”

As well as this, Balbuena stressed that the million-dollar question revolved around Trovato’s position and whether or not he would resign from his managerial position or terminate his company’s commercial contract with the sports betting concessionaire. 

Moreover, the former director general hinted at the possibility of future damages and consequences as well as discussing the integrity of football and what is needed to ensure it. 

He concluded: “What happened can be considered as a prelude to the recognition of the need for the governing bodies of sport and the State, through Conajzar, to create the appropriate conditions to guarantee the integrity of football.

“It is a matter of extreme delicacy that, if checked, will be a reason for analysis of  both the governing bodies of football and sports betting. Without a doubt, there will be consequences.”

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