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Athlone Town

Irish club faces €400k Asian match-fixing fraud investigation

3:23 PM IST 05/05/17
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UEFA and the Irish police have both become embroiled in a gambling scandal after irregular betting patterns in global markets

League of Ireland club Athlone Town are currently being investigated by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) due to irregular betting patterns which saw more than €400,000 wagered on their domestic clash with Longford Town.

With just three minutes remaining in the tie, the odds on another goal being scored in the game were significantly better than the odds of no further goals being scored thanks to the vast amounts of bets on over 3.5 goals being scored.

Longford scored a controversial goal in the final moments to see the game finish 3-1, with Athlone goalkeeper Igor Labuts heavily criticised for not doing more to keep the ball out of the net.

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As well as the FAI investigation, Ireland's police force are also looking into the matter through the Garda Economic Crime Bureau, which typically investigates allegations of fraud. UEFA contacted the FAI, which in turn informed the police about the unusual betting patterns in international markets.

The director general of anti-match-fixing organisation Federbet was shocked by the betting patterns - believed to be based in Philippines, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and other Asian markets - claiming that he has no doubt the game was fixed.

“Activity on this game was suspicious," Francesco Baranca told the Irish Sun.

“We were sure something was wrong according to our algorithm. The evidence there was more than enough. It’s quite shocking for me to see this in Ireland because I have not seen this tradition before.

“I’m talking about numbers, which are clear. We monitored the odds and it was crazy. I have no doubt that this match was fixed, according to those numbers.

“For the odds to change that much, it requires significant amounts of money to be placed.”

UEFA's letter to the FAI regarding the match agrees with the claims made by Baranca, having noticed something suspicious due to the vast amounts wagered on outcomes of the game in Asian betting markets.

“There is clear and overwhelming betting evidence that the course or result of this match was unduly influenced with a view to gaining corrupt betting profits," UEFA's letter read.

“The betting evidence ultimately indicates that bettors held prior knowledge of Athlone Town suffering a minimum two-goal defeat, in a match which contained at least two first-half goals and at least four in total.”

Before moving to Ireland, Latvian goalkeeper Labuts previously played for Jurmala and Iluktse in his homeland, as well as Portuguese side Atletico Club de Portugal, all of which have been investigated for match-fixing.

However, the player strongly denied any accusations during an interview with a Portuguese newspaper during his time with Atletico Club.

"I know that I am clean but it's unpleasant and my reputation has been damaged," he told .

Labuts has not commented on the allegations relating to the UEFA investigation, but his current club Athlone have denied all accusations and expressed shock at being linked with match-fixing.

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"The board and the management committee of Athlone Town AFC are absolutely shocked by the contents of documentation forwarded to us by the FAI and UEFA concerning our recent First Division game against Longford Town," the club said in a statement.

"The club absolutely abhors match fixing and would never knowingly get involved in such unacceptable activity."

The FAI will begin interviewing players, coaches and staff at Athlone Town on Monday as part of the investigation.