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'Operation Oikos': both good and bad news for football


'Operation Oikos' has tarnished Spanish football, but in itself it is good news. It's bad news that there was a group dedicated to rigging games, but it's good news that it has been dismantled. Here is an issue on which LaLiga president Javier Tebas has always worked hard to eradicate. Among his achievements, he has made great progress on the scourge of match fixing, something which had for so long been blurred and undetectable.

Those of us who are close to Spanish football know that match fixing has long been part of the game. It occurs especially at the end of the championship, and especially in the border areas around promotions and relegations. Money would exchange hands, although not always. In the second division there existed an old unwritten rule by which the teams that are going to face each other on the last day would strike an agreement: the points go the team that needs them. By extending the promotion zone in the division from three to six, Tebas mitigated much of the effect of that old and terrible habit. Now very few points have much significance on the last day.

To that old rule, betting can be added as a second danger. But that is something which is more detectable, fortunately, as rare or excessive bets are easy to track. This seems to be what led to the several arrests that shook Spanish football on Tuesday.

Since the time of former Secretary of State for Sport Jaime Lissavetzky (2004-2011), instances of sports bribery have carried criminal penalties, and that was one of the great successes of his mandate. My father taught me that you have to hate the crime and pity the offender, so I do not personally wish any harm to those involved. But I do wish one good thing for football: that all of this mess is cleared up and that those who are found guilty pay for their crimes, so as to deter others in the future. Then we can all enjoy the game without suspicion.