Football: Spanish inquisition

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The Independent Online
ALLEGATIONS that players and officials of the Spanish First Division club, Tenerife, were paid a total of pounds 125,000 by an anonymous benefactor for beating Real Madrid at the end of last season are to be investigated by the country's football authorities.

Tenerife's 3-2 win over Real Madrid on 7 June gave the league championship to Barcelona, who defeated Athletic Bilbao 2-0 on the same day. Tenerife's captain, Antonio Hernandez, revealed this week that some months after the season ended he was given a sack - reported to have contained 21 million pesetas - by a man outside the team's stadium.

Hernandez told a Spanish radio station: 'He said, 'This is the money promised for beating Madrid'. He didn't give me any more hints, and I didn't ask anything else. When somebody comes to give you a tip, you don't ask him where he works, his name or his ID number.'

Hernandez added that he distributed the money among 21 players and four team officials. 'I don't understand how this can be a crime, since it's a bonus for winning, never for losing,' he said.

The comments prompted the Spanish Football Federation to consider an investigation, and the league's competition committee met yesterday afternoon.

Spanish league rules forbid third parties from paying players to win, and the penalty can include a fine for triple the amount of the payment as well as a suspension.

Barcelona spokesmen have denied the club had anything to do with the matter. 'What's clear is nobody is going to take this title away from us,' Nicolau Casaus, Barcelona's vice-president, said.

Tenerife's technical director, Santiago Llorente, said that neither he nor the club's president had any knowledge of the affair.