Thursday 14 December 2017

FAI quizzes Athlone Town players over 'fix' claims

All of Athlone’s first team squad was asked to speak with the FAI delegation. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
All of Athlone’s first team squad was asked to speak with the FAI delegation. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Eoghan MacConnell

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) began conducting interviews with the players and officials of Athlone Town Football Club in the Co Westmeath town yesterday.

The interviews follow allegations of match rigging at the embattled club.

It is understood that interviews focused on the league encounter with Longford Town that triggered the probe after Uefa informed the FAI about suspicious movements in international markets.

Abbotstown chiefs have received detailed analysis from Uefa about the betting movements in Athlone's 3-1 loss on April 29. It honed in on large amounts of money placed on goals scored late in both halves of the fixture, with Uefa referring to 'suspicious confidence' in the betting patterns.

The process kicked off at 9am in the Radisson Blu Hotel with the FAI's league director and integrity officer Fran Gavin and disciplinary regulations officer Rea Walsh speaking with officials and players from Athlone.

Club chairman John Hayden attended the hotel on Monday morning but left before midday.

Latvian pair Igor Labuts and Kirils Grigorovs and Romanian Dragos Sfrijan were amongst those to be quizzed yesterday.

They have previously been involved with games that aroused suspicion at Uefa level, but have not been found guilty of any wrongdoing. French director of operations Marc Fourmeaux was also summoned for questioning last night.

All of Athlone's first team squad was asked to speak with the FAI delegation, and the remaining interviews will be carried out today. Sources have indicated that the first round of discussions was general in nature, with the details of the build-up to the Longford game of interest to the administrators.

The seven professional members of the squad - all of whom hail from outside Ireland - have been taking advice from the Professional Footballers' Association of Ireland (PFAI).

Interpreters were used over the phone to assist with some of the discussions.

Younger Irish members of the panel, who are signed to the club on amateur terms, were accompanied by family members.

On Sunday, the club's board and management committee posted a statement in relation to the allegations.

They cited the principle of being 'innocent until proven guilty' and said no stone must be left unturned in the quest for answers.

"We want An Garda Síochána, Europol, Interpol and Uefa itself to immediately open parallel investigations to the one being currently conducted by the Football Association of Ireland," they said.

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