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Tebas, league positions and third-party bonuses


Third-party bonuses, or the maletín ('briefcase') as they're known here in Spain... Many say they've never encountered them, but don't make too much of an effort trying to believe them. They're widely accepted among the people of football. Bribes paid to throw a match are a different story, of course, although they have existed too. Thankfully, that's now starting to be chased down, as the investigations into a Levante-Real Zaragoza fixture and two featuring Osasuna, one against Real Betis and another with Espanyol, are testament to. I don't know what'll come out of that, but I think they're positive first steps. The impression I get is that the days of impunity are coming to an end.

And bonuses for winning? Banned but tolerated, like certain bars that let you smoke inside. They're an attempt to counteract a shortcoming in the league format, which at the end of the season produces games that only matter to one of the two teams involved. It's only natural to empathise with the side in front of you and ease up, while the damage done to another outfit elsewhere remains out of sight and out of mind. For that reason, the aforementioned outfit elsewhere gets out its wallet to spur on the team with nothing to play for. It's tawdry to say the least, but what's being sought is an unqualified contest. Which is why they're a tolerated, if ugly practice. They're given, taken, but never admitted.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas has tried to combat it by adding in a detail to the new league contract: teams earn extra money for each position that they finish higher up the standings, in payments spread out over five years. So coming tenth is that bit more profitable than coming eleventh. This looks to ensure that teams sitting in mid-table security give it all they've got right to the end of the campaign. But that cash goes to the club, not directly into the players' pockets, and is a gain they can less easily compute; meanwhile, a bonus from outside is hard, tangible currency. What if the extra prize money went straight to the players? No club would agree to it, though. It's by no means a straightforward issue.