PFAI ridicule 'lack of evidence' in FAI betting charges
It seems the controversial Athlone Town betting scandal could be heating up even further, after the Players Football Association of Ireland (PFAI) derided the FAI's decision to press charges against two of its members.
The PFAI has accused the governing body of pursuing the serious case of match manipulation - which carries a lifetime ban - without concrete evidence.
Moreover, the players union insists the basis the FAI relied upon to reach their conclusion was solely based on the opinions of two panellists requested to analyse video footage of the three Athlone matches under investigation.
The FAI, at the request of UEFA, mounted an investigation in May following suspicious betting patterns around First Division games involving the club under new foreign ownership.
Following a lengthy series of interviews and the surveying of personal communication, the FAI brought charges against four of the club's members.
It is understood two of the defendants, an amateur player and a non-playing member, have a case to answer on lesser charges of betting/gambling and bringing the game into disrepute.
The FAI, who were unavailable for comment yesterday, have arranged for an Independent Disciplinary Committee hearing on August 3.
Both the club and the PFAI reacted angrily to the developments, with the players union adamant they would appeal any findings all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.
"The allegations that have been made against these players are of the most serious nature," said the PFAI said in a statement.
"The players in this instance were interviewed at length by the FAI and provided full details of phone records and bank accounts.
"There is nothing more damaging to a player's integrity. For such charges to be levelled, the evidence against them should be overwhelming.
"No other 'evidence' whatsoever has been proffered. Indeed one of three experts states: 'There is not enough conclusive evidence to prove in a court of law that players conspired to affect the outcome of the game and therefore breach the rule.'
"Unless there is further evidence which the FAI is withholding, basing charges of this nature on these two players on the subjective opinion of two out of three people, watching TV footage and hand-picked by the prosecutor, the FAI, is astonishing.
"The players will defend these allegations vigorously and will do so as far as the Court of Arbitration for Sport if necessary."
The FAI were last night unavailable for comment.
Meanwhile, the deadline set by Bray Wanderers' players for the club to furnish proof that will be able to honour all wages payments for the remainder of the season expires today.
If the "appropriate information and promised guarantees" are not supplied, the squad will examine all options ahead of the next game against Cork City, due to be played next weekend.