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Monday 20 November 2017

PFAI to appeal Athlone bans

Athlone Town goalkeeper Igor Labuts and Dragos Sfrijan has both been banned from playing for 12 months by the FAI after being found guilty of match-fixing
Athlone Town goalkeeper Igor Labuts and Dragos Sfrijan has both been banned from playing for 12 months by the FAI after being found guilty of match-fixing
Dragos Sfrijan of Athlone Town

The PFAI, the body which represents League of Ireland footballers, have angrily vowed to appeal the one-year ban from football handed down to two Athlone Town players after they were found guilty of match-fixing charges, while one of the players involved says he will do all he can, including taking a polygraph, to clear his name.

And the club have also defended the players, a Town statement saying the ban was "flawed, outrageous and perverse" and claimed the "outcome was predetermined".

The FAI announced that, following an investigation by their disciplinary committee, Athlone players Igors Labuts and Dragos Sfrijan had broken three FAI rules (Bringing the Game into Disrepute, Manipulating Matches and Betting/Gambling) and were "banned from all football-related activities for 12 months", which the players' union has called "career-ending".

Latvian keeper Labuts played for Town in their most recent game, while Romanian import Sfrijan has also been in the side, but they now face a year out of the game, unless an appeal is successful, though the PFAI claim that the stigma from such a ban has effectively ended their professional careers. The are unable to even train with the squad.

The FAI's probe focused on the controversial Longford Town-Athlone match last April. Investigations into two other games were dropped due to "insufficient evidence around those games".

But the PFAI have launched a stern defence of the duo, claiming that no evidence was produced.

"The damage already done to these players is irreversible but they will fight to reclaim what is left of their good names," the PFAI said. "We will appeal this decision and will take this as far as the Court of Arbitration for Sport if necessary.

"No evidence exists that these players were guilty of any such offence (match-fixing). No player in the history of sport has been found guilty of match fixing on such little evidence."

The FAI will have to defend, in a CAS appeal, their own disciplinary process where three "experts" selected by the FAI (Don O'Riordan, Damien Richardson and Tony McDonnell), with later input from an Austrian ex-coach, reported to the FAI's disciplinary committee.

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

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