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May 5, 2014

Spain debates controversial payments

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone looks ahead to three huge weeks of football for the club and his players.

La Liga president Javier Tebas and Spanish players' union (AFE) chief Luis Rubiales have clashed over whether third-party "incentive payments" to teams should be allowed.

Ruben Garcia helped Levante to a surprise win against Atletico.
Ruben Garcia helped Levante to a surprise win against Atletico.

Simeone sees positives in loss

The payments, referred to as "maletines" ("briefcases") in Spain, are typically used when a team involved in the title race or relegation struggle offers a bonus to a mid-table side to motivate them to beat one of their rivals at the top or bottom of the standings.

The issue arose again this week after an apparent joke made by Levante youngster Ruben Garcia ahead of his side's surprise 2-0 win over league leaders Atletico Madrid on Sunday as he said: "Why not take a little present for winning the game?"

However, while the bonuses have been a regular topic in La Liga in seasons past, Liga de Futbol Profesional (LFP) president Tebas insisted it was a serious breach of the rules, tweeting before the match: "Levante player Ruben must know that taking money to win a game is forbidden and seriously punished."

AFE head Rubiales, though, told Canal Plus after Levante's victory that his association was in favour of making such bonuses legal as they could then be regulated and transparent.

"Ruben is a sensational kid who I know well," Rubiales, a former Levante, Xerez and Hamilton Academicals defender, said. "He has said himself his choice of words was perhaps wrong, but what he wanted to say was he always goes out to win and if, on top of that, someone wants to give a gift...

"If there is no negative attitude on the pitch, of laziness or indifference, or of match-fixing, what is the problem? We would regulate it, avoid defrauding the taxman and make it transparent. We must sit down and discuss it. We are in a democracy, we think in one way, and this does not need to be a problem.

"There is a debate every year when teams are fighting for the title, against relegation, or a thousand different things. You should make things as clear as possible."

Asked if he himself had ever received a bonus for winning a game from a third party, Rubiales said: "As a player I always went out to win, but then of course it did not bother me if someone wanted to give a little present -- not a problem.

"I believe you must be intelligent in this. What we need to do is regulate it. The most important thing for a professional is to be a professional, to always go out onto the pitch to give their maximum. You can win or lose but go back into the dressing room knowing you have given everything. I believe it is good now that we are talking about this, and not match-fixing. That is the feeling I have."

Tebas, a sports law expert who has regularly spoken publicly about how difficult it is to fight match-fixing in Spain and recently published a novel dramatising the issue, said Rubiales did not seem to comprehend the importance of the matter in question.

He tweeted: "Unfortunate remarks by Rubiales, AFE president, for the timing and because he does not understand the depth of this problem."

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