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Athlone Town slams "outrageous" findings

Thursday, 7th September, 2017 5:36pm

Athlone Town slams

Statement by Athlone Town AFC

Athlone Town AFC has criticised the decision of the FAI to find two players guilty of match fixing as outrageous, perverse and nonsensical and emanating from a flawed process.

Earlier today, the FAI announced that an Independent Disciplinary Committee had found that  players Igors Labuts and Dragos Sfrijan had breached FAI rules, relating to bringing the game into disrepute, manipulating matches and betting/gambling.

Following the committee's findings both players were banned from all football-related activities for 12 months.

This afternoon, Athlone Town AFC issued the following statement:


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

While the club is extremely disappointed, it is not surprised, by the decisions. 

Our position is that today's determinations fly in the face of the evidence presented before the disciplinary committee, and are perverse.

The club is left with the conclusion that the outcome was predetermined and reflects a face saving exercise for certain people within the game rather any forum where truth or justice could prevail.
The club would advise people to be slow to reach judgment about the players following such a flawed process. 

The scepticism expressed by the club in the ability of the “independent” disciplinary committee to apply a legal standard of proof has unfortunately come to pass.

At this stage the club supports the players' appeal against the findings and any avenues taken by the two, who strongly deny the charges, aimed at overturning these decisions.

We also fully support the PFAI's statement in relation to the findings.

Before the process commenced the club raised its concerns about the fairness of the investigation, the manner in which the probe was conducted and in particular the so called independence of the decision makers.

In reality none of our concerns were significantly addressed, and the decisions leave us in no doubt that the entire process was utterly flawed.

While the club willingly and fully participated in the process it has been our strong belief the FAI's findings had been predetermined, and have little to do what was presented before those hearing the case.

We had hoped to get a fair hearing with determinations based on the facts. 

Since the investigation began we believe there has been a blatant attempt to find parties associated with Athlone Town AFC guilty of some wrong doing before any sort of due process had commenced.

The very public manner in which this investigation has been handled has caused significant and long lasting damage to the club, its officials, players and staff.

Our complaints against the process are many and detailed.

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

The club takes exception to the use of the FAI's description of "clear and overwhelming" evidence of match manipulation being present in the case. 

It was anything but. 

In relation to Dragos Sfrijan  who was found to have attempted to manipulate matches amounted to nothing more than a missed kick.

Yet he has been found guilty of manipulating the outcome of a game despite the fact he was carrying a significant and serious injury (dislocated shoulder) at the time.

Another complaint was that no evidence of any betting profits was tendered or offered, and the amount supposedly bet on the game against Longford Town is unknown to the investigators. 

Those in the media who quote six figure sums being involved either know something UEFA and FAI say is unknown to them or have been given misleading information in a further attempt to blacken the club's name. 

No evidence of a conspiracy exists. 

There was no evidence of profits been made by players or anybody related  to the players notwithstanding the fact that complete disclosure have been made no such evidence existed.

It is extraordinary that the players were convicted on no more than opinion evidence that could never come close to standing up in a Court of law or any truly independent investigatory forum.

Indeed no real effort was made by the FAI to involve the Gardaí in a criminal investigation. 

If they stand fully behind the verdicts and have confidence in them then we call for the immediate intervention of the Gardaí and or Europol and Interpol.

It also appears extraordinary to us that while the FAI say it has a zero tolerance policy to match fixing that the penalty deemed to be appropriate for match fixing and manipulating the outcome of games is one of 12 months ban.  

To us it seems like saying that somebody is only a little bit pregnant. 

The sanctions are nonsensical, and reinforce our position that in truth no evidence exists that the players were involved in match fixing.  

We believe that this decision has now set a very dangerous precedent not only for football but for all sports.

We will issue further statements on our next step following discussions with the relevant parties."

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