Corruption is a problem. Keeping corruption out of public scrutiny is an even bigger problem, because responsible people remain untouched and ready to repeat the same wrong behaviours. In that sense, the financial crisis that hit Spain hard from 2007 onwards has helped to lift the veil that covered several corruption cases that went unnoticed before that period. Spanish Media devote entire sections to highlight cases of bad management and corruption, whilst judges and public prosecutors do their best to bring the masterminds in front of the courts of justice. The public perceives that the country is improving in term of accountability and business cleanliness, with high honesty standards being put forward.
Amazingly, whilst match-fixing was a serious issue in most of Europe, with a number of big scandals being prosecuted over the last decades and whilst nearly every sector in Spain saw prosecutors chasing corruption cases and making headlines, Spanish sports sector, world-admired Spanish soccer in particular remained unspoilt. Rumours concerning end-of-season games were swiftly dismissed for lack of evidence. A general feeling of complacency was shared by fans, players and managers alike. Spain soccer was an extraordinary exception to the corruption issues faced by other European football leagues and by the Spanish economy.
This week, the Spanish Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Office has casted some doubts on that idyllic image. It summoned more than 30 people to provide witness in relation to the Levante – Real Zaragoza match played on May, 2011 on the final fixture of the 2010-2011 Spanish First Division League Season. With the final score of the match -winning Real Zaragoza 1-2 at Levante’s stadium- both teams avoided relegation to the Second Division. Match-fixing suspects were around this match at that moment, but were eventually discarded. Again, no clear evidence was available.
After several investigations run by the Spanish football league, Spanish Anti-Corruption Prosecutor is now in charge of the investigation of the match. According to the Spanish Media, it could have detected traces of unusual movements of funds in the accounts of people connected to the match. This is the first time that a match of the Spanish football is directly investigated in depth by the Spanish authorities. Most of the players of the match, as well as the former president and the former coach of Real Zaragoza will be under interrogation of the prosecutor office. Depending on the conclusions, a criminal proceeding could be initiated. It may be well that the procedure is finally closed without indicting anyone. Actually, under Spanish law, everyone is innocent until the contrary has been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt. No final evidence has been brought forward and the reputation of players and managers shall be strongly preserved and protected. Everyone desires a happy end for the case. However, at the same time, Spain may also realize that, after all, Spain may be not so different from the rest of the world, for good and bad.