The new football season in Spain hasn't even begun and already the competition is tainted. A corruption investigation involving the fixing of refuse collection contracts in Alicante has also exposed attempts to buy off the opposition by those running the local club, Hércules. The team was promoted last season to the Spanish first division, in a very tight finish, and the surveillance recordings made as part of the corruption investigation have revealed that payments were offered to opponents in return for throwing the game.
The judge handling the original case is not very interested in this issue, bribing your opponents in order to win a match is not a criminal offence in Spain. At least not yet, the new version of the Codigo Penal to be introduced in December will make it an offence. However, with the existing law the judge has ruled that the recordings cannot even be handed over for investigation by the sporting authorities. Prosecutors are trying to get round this by suggesting that the offence could be fraud, via an attempt to fix the outcome of games which people bet on through the football pools.
Real Betis, the club from Sevilla that just lost out to Hércules in the promotion battle, is naturally doing everything that they can to challenge the promotion of their rivals. As one of the 'bigger' clubs in Spanish football they may have more chances than others would. So far the Spanish football federation appears to have nothing at all to say about the issue, a fairly typical response which they apply to most problems that arise in the sport that they are notionally in charge of. The idea of the federation as being little more than a glorified travel agency becomes ever stronger.
The Alicante corruption case also creates a variety of grand slam in the Valencia region. It means that all three provincial leaders of the Partido Popular are now involved in (different) corruption cases. The national PP, however, keeps a clean sheet by not applying their much vaunted code of ethics to any of the leaders involved. It would be a fine photograph if they all attended the first Hércules home game in the league this season.