Gavin reveals illegal foreign betting ring led to ban on James
AIRTRICITY League director Fran Gavin insists that an illegal betting ring based abroad triggered the incident which resulted in an 18-month ban being imposed on Colm James.
The Longford Town midfielder last week received the record suspension from football in Ireland for offences relating to "bringing the game into disrepute, corruption and betting/gambling".
Monday's deadline passed without the player lodging an appeal.
Although their investigation showed no evidence of any match being actually rigged, the FAI are adamant that a "network" was being assembled to influence the outcome of at least one fixture.
"It was the most detailed and the longest investigation that we've had into any disciplinary issue in the league," explained Gavin.
"We interviewed over 50 people during several weeks and we strongly believe that there was a group involved in approaching the player from outside our jurisdiction.
"We have no evidence that any matches were fixed, but we think there was an attempt to set up a network to try and get games fixed. So, from our point of view, it was definitely an attack on the integrity of the league."
Gavin hopes the lengthy ban, which will likely end the League of Ireland career of 29-year-old James, acts as a deterrent to any others considering acting outside the rules.
Still, with wages in the league vastly reduced over recent years, he recognises that the opportunity for players to net a quick earner exists.
"We've addressed the situation in our rules," he said. "We've made it clear that if someone is approached at any stage, they're obliged to report it so that it's addressed. There are serious consequences for anybody involved in it.
"Look, the temptation is there. It is greater with the less money people have and the more financial trouble they get into.
"We're in very tight times at the moment, so when people dangle something like this in front of a player or an official, they think about things like that.
"But there's a time when you make a decision – yes or no. It's important that we make sure everybody knows that, if you make the wrong decision, then we're going to come after you with everything."
Gavin, who was providing a mid-season update on the league, said the FAI will be staying out of the dispute between Waterford United and Stephen Henderson. The former Blues manager has issued a winding-up order on the club, claiming outstanding monies, believed to be a five-figure sum.
"It's an industrial relations issue and I'd like to see it sorted," said Gavin. "There have been no requests to us from either side to get involved."
One change certain for next season, according to the league chief, is the entry of a unified club representing Galway in the First Division. That may not be good news for Mervue United, but Gavin reiterated that "everybody has signed up to Galway having one club in the First Division."
He added: "The implementation committee that was set up have met on a regular basis, but they've not moved on to the next phase which is forming an entity and looking at the logistics of forming a club.
"It's gone very well. All of the clubs are involved – Mervue, Salthill, the Galway FA and GUST (Galway United Supporters Trust). They're all involved in the process of getting the new club up and running. I think over the next few months, we'll see a lot of movement in Galway."
On the matter of a new U-17 national league, Gavin (pictured below) said he expected this to be in place by the end of 2014.
"We need to hear the thoughts of the new High Performance Director Ruud Dokter who starts on August 1, but we have advanced plans on the U-17 league.
"The league clubs are anxious to get it in. Hopefully, within the next 18 months, we should see a development."