Sport

FAI Bans Two Athlone Town Players For A Year For Match-Fixing

FAI Bans Two Athlone Town Players For A Year For Match-Fixing”

It read: "The Board of Management of Athlone Town AFC rejects the outrageous findings made by the FAI against two of the club's players".

For the moment, though, the players have been found guilty of the charges in relation to the case primarily on the basis of the betting patterns linked to the club's game against Longford Town earlier in the season and an assessment by a panel of three former players and/or managers (Tony McDonnell, Damien Richardson and Don O'Riordan) of the players' contributions to some of the goals in that game.

Following the Committee's findings both players have been banned from all football-related activities for 12 months. "We are extremely confident that Cas will back our case", said a source close to the matter. They also angrily attacked the FAI's disciplinary process.

A subsequent lengthy statement from Athlone criticised what they described as a "flawed and unfair" match-fixing probe.

"It is our opinion that the evidence presented against the players was exceptionally flimsy, and based on opinion only".

The most serious charge, of manipulating matches, could have led to lifetime bans.

In a strongly worded statement released by the PFAI on Thursday afternoon, the players' association said the two gulity verdicts came as a result of "half-baked innuendo".

The sorry saga kicked off in May, when the FAI confirmed that European football's governing body Uefa had contacted it, "highlighting irregular betting patterns" around Athlone's Division One game.

The issue was a reportedly large upsurge in live betting, online wagers being placed in the final minutes of the game on Athlone losing by two goals.

Labuts pictured during a 3-1 defeat to Cobh Ramblers at St Colman's Park in July. "They co-operated fully with the investigation and provided all phone records and any bank accounts that they had to the FAI".

It says it provided witnesses with matching expertise, all of whom suggested there was not enough evidence to convict on.

The FAI's Independent Disciplinary Committee met last Monday and ruled that Labuts, the goalkeeper from Latvia, and Sfrijan, the Romanian midfielder, were in breach of three FAI rules of bringing football into disrepute, manipulating matches and betting and gambling offences.

Original story: Two Athlone Town players have been banned from all football-related activities for 12 months after an FAI investigation into match-fixing, writes Stephen Barry.



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