Tuesday 25 June 2019

Footballers now charged on match fix

Two professional players and an amateur with Athlone FC charged by sports governing body

'Shocked and surprised': Stephen McGuinness Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
'Shocked and surprised': Stephen McGuinness Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Two footballers with Athlone Town FC have been charged by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) in connection with match fixing, and a third player has been charged in connection with betting, following a month-long investigation.

The two professional players were charged under the FAI rules on bringing the game into disrepute and manipulating matches and betting. It is understood an amateur player was charged under its rules on betting and gambling. The three men will face a hearing before an Independent Disciplinary Committee on August 3.

This latest development was announced by the FAI yesterday in a short statement that took Athlone Town FC and players by surprise.

The FAI identified the three individuals as "members of Athlone Town FC". However a spokesman for the Professional Footballers Association of Ireland (PFAI) confirmed that two of the individuals were professional footballers with the club and the third was an amateur player.

Stephen McGuinness, of the Professional Footballers Association of Ireland (PFAI), previously said they were "shocked and surprised" at the allegations.

The PFAI is standing by the two professional footballers and said the charges are not based on any evidence.

"The sole basis for the charges are that there were suspicious betting patterns and a panel of three experts were of the opinion that some of [the] players' actions were suspicious. No other 'evidence' whatsoever has been proffered," a PFAI spokesperson said last night.

"The players have denied all wrongdoing from the moment they were made aware of this investigation and this remains the case. They have done all that was asked of them to assist in the investigation which they believed would be carried out in a fair and objective manner. The players will defend these allegations vigorously and will do so as far as the Court of Arbitration for Sport if necessary."

The FAI's investigation began in May when Uefa became suspicious about Asian gamblers betting heavily on the club. Uefa detected unusual betting patterns on an SSE Airtricity League of Ireland First Division match between Athlone and neighbouring Longford Town on April 29.

In its report to the FAI, Uefa found "clear and overwhelming betting evidence" that the match result was "unduly influenced with a view to gaining corrupt betting profits". The FAI investigation also covers two other matches. It forwarded Uefa's report to the Garda's Economic Crime Bureau which is also investigating, while also launching its own investigation. It is understood that investigation is ongoing.

Last night, Athlone AFC said it was disappointed with the FAI's decision to bring charges against members of the club.

In a statement it said: "It is important to note that no finding has been made against the club itself, which Athlone Town AFC welcomes.

"The club now awaits the production of all the evidence related to the allegations the individuals have been charged with from the FAI in advance of the disciplinary hearings scheduled to be heard by an independent panel in early August. Athlone Town AFC denies being involved in match fixing/match manipulation. At this point in time no finding of wrongdoing has been made against any coach, player or official at the club."

Sunday Independent

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