Richie Sadlier: Athlone Town bans set a dangerous precedent – Irish Times

I once missed an open goal in a Championship game.

The ball bounced at my feet with nobody in front of me and embarrassingly I sliced it wide. I did it on international duty too, while playing for the Republic of Ireland under-19’s against Denmark at Dalymount Park. On neither occasion was I accused of trying to deliberately manipulate the result for financial gain. I guess I was lucky there was no suspicious betting patterns associated with either game.

Dragos Sfrijan and Igors Labuts were not so fortunate. They have both been banned by the FAI for one year from all football-related activity for offences relating to match-fixing.

I was involved in the hearing of their case earlier this week, which I’ll return to in a moment, but first, consider what evidence you’d assume was uncovered. Given the severity of the charges against them, what burden of proof would you apply to the prosecution?

You’d imagine incriminating phone or bank records would be required. Maybe suspicious gambling records or proven links to gambling syndicates would do the job. A paper trail would be ideal, obviously, but even strong circumstantial evidence might do.

Either way, you’d expect the case to involve evidence of some kind, particularly given the seriousness of the offence. Not in Ireland, it seems. Under the FAI’s watchful eye, if there are betting irregularities associated with a game, just making a mistake on the pitch is proof of a player’s involvement.

To explain the background, this case was triggered by a report the FAI received in May from the Uefa Betting Fraud Detection System (BFDS). The report highlighted irregular betting patterns associated with Athlone Town’s defeat to Longford Town on April 29th.