Years of alleged crimes
Portuguese soccer giant S.L. Benfica is embroiled in an investigation for alleged match-fixing instances between the years of 2016 and 2020.
appeared in court on January 3”
“Taking into account the news made public, Sport Lisboa e Benfica – Futebol SAD confirms that it appeared in court on January 3, as well as, among others, the members of the Board of Directors from 2016 to 2020 and who are currently in office,” a statement released by the club read.
The current Primeira Liga leader has already navigated its fair share of turmoil in recent years. In 2021, retired club legend Rui Costa took over as president in place of Luis Filipe Vieira after he was arrested for tax evasion, aggravated fraud, forgery and money laundering.
Evidently, that was not the end of the team’s legal struggles.
Paying the price
Costa is part of the Benfica board currently under investigation for the match-fixing offenses. After they accessed Benfica’s emails, prosecutors found multiple instances in which the club benefitted from manipulated outcomes of games.
The company released a statement confirming its commitment to cooperation with the probe. “Benfica SAD will not comment further as the trial is under legal secrecy,” read the club statement. “Benfica expresses its total willingness to collaborate with the competent authorities, as has always happened up to now.”
As of yet, it is unclear what repercussions Benfica could face if found guilty. The team won eight trophies and three league titles during the five-year window under investigation.
Portuguese law distinguishes match fixing into different categories, including active and passive participation and criminal collusion. Penalties range from three to five years in prison and a fine and can be compounded.
In 2020, five people were imprisoned for match-fixing related to second-tier club Leixoes during the 2015-16 season. Sentences ranged from five-and-a-half years to six years and nine months.
Champions League at risk?
To add even more intrigue to the case, Benfica currently sits atop the league table with 40 points from 15 matches and a record of 13-1-1. The team is also six points clear of second-place Braga and eight points ahead of dropping out of automatic UEFA Champions League qualification.
each of the 32 teams that qualified made €15.64m ($16.71m)
The importance of Champions League funding cannot be understated for teams such as Benfica. In 2021-22, each of the 32 teams that qualified made $16.7m plus $2.9m for each win and around $993,700 for a draw.
It is also not unprecedented for teams with even higher profiles than Benfica to be banned from the Champions League. In 2019-20, Italian side AC Milan, the second-most-winning team in the competition’s history, was banned for Financial Fair Play infractions. Malaga, Beşiktaş and Fenerbahçe have also been barred from competing in the past, with the last two found guilty of match-fixing within the past ten years.