25 August 2020

CAS annuls FAI’s ban on Latvian player for match-fixing

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has annulled a one year ban imposed on Igor Labuts by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) for alleged involvement in match-fixing. The FAI imposed a one year ban after finding Labuts, Athlone Town’s Latvian goalkeeper, as complicit in fixing his club’s 3-1 loss to Longford Town on 29 April 2017. The FAI dismissed Labuts’s appeal against its initial decision on 5 October 2018.

The CAS Panel was ‘convinced to its comfortable satisfaction’ that the 29 April 2017 match was fixed, as highlighted in the original Betting Fraud Detection System (BFDS) Report provided by UEFA to the FAI. However, it was not ‘comfortably satisfied’ that Labuts was involved. ‘It appears that, if players of Athlone Town AFC had some malicious intent and involvement in manipulating the result of the Match, it is more likely than not that such players were the Athlone Town AFC central backs and not the Appellant’, reads the CAS Panel Decision (PDF below).

In May 2017, the FAI widened an investigation into Athlone Town, after concerns that a new investor had bought players into the club that had previously been involved in matches scrutinised by UEFA. It was reported that Latvian and Romanian players signed by the club had taken part in 17 games ‘escalated’ – or marked for further scrutiny – by UEFA. No disciplinary action was taken in relation to those 17 games.

Labuts told the CAS that he had chosen a team in Ireland because his sister was living and working in the country. He said that Athlone Town’s contract covered his accommodation expenses, which is why he accepted although the salary was minimal.

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