Former Athlone keeper Igor Labuts cleared of match-fixing allegations
https://www.rte.ie/sport/soccer/2020/07 ... ch-fixing/
Former Athlone Town goalkeeper Igor Labuts has won an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport against a ban imposed after he was alleged to have played a part in match-fixing.
In September 2017, the Latvian was banned by the Football Association of Ireland for 12 months for breaching rules relating to manipulating matches and gambling.
At the time, the FAI said an investigation had been launched following a UEFA Betting Fraud Detection System report demonstrated "clear and overwhelming betting evidence that the course or result" of Athlone's game against Longford Town in the SSE Airtricity League First Division on 29 April "was unduly influenced with a view to gaining corrupt betting profits".
Athlone Town and the Professional Footballers' Association of Ireland subsequently criticised the decision, and said the process was extremely unfair. Labuts, backed by the PFAI, took the case to CAS to clear his name.
On Friday afternoon, Stuart Gilhooly, solicitor for the PFAI, tweeted: "Igor Labuts wins his appeal at CAS. He is not guilty of match fixing. Justice at last after three years and three negative findings at the FAI. Such a pity he had to go to CAS for justice but he deserves it."
Labuts later said the battle to clear his name had been "personally devastating".
"I thought this day would never come," he said. "It is hard to explain how personally devastating the last three years have been for me and my family. I came to Ireland with the intention of making it to the Premier Division and I hoped to put myself in the shop window with Athlone Town. I am not the best goalkeeper in the world, but I thought with the right training and experience, I could improve my consistency levels and have a reasonable career in the League of Ireland.
"This was taken away from me by the FAI. I understand completely that they had to investigate the match and I cooperated in full. It was hugely disappointing to me that I was implicated without any evidence of wrongdoing. I was guilty only of making a mistake which some of the best goalkeepers in the world have made, or worse in some cases.
"To be crystal clear, I did not manipulate, have not manipulated and never would be involved in manipulating a football match. Integrity in football is the most important element of the game. Without that, we have nothing.
"My name has been dragged through the mud by the FAI when it was clear from the outset that there was never enough evidence to maintain a prosecution.
"Since the conviction and consequent ban, I have been unable to obtain a professional contract. A footballer's career is short and the FAI took away three years from me. I will never forgive them for that."
The PFAI added: "Put simply, had this outrageous conviction been allowed to stand, it would have had a chilling effect on all footballers worldwide. Every time suspicious betting patterns surrounded a match, players would have been looking over their shoulder worrying that their poor performance would be reason to destroy their careers without any further evidence.
"This result means that fear is no longer there. However, the fight for integrity goes on. We will continue to do all we can to ensure that malign influences on our game will not prevail but we will also ensure that our players are treated fairly."
The FAI released a short statement, which read: "The FAI notes the findings issued today by CAS in the Igor Labuts v Football Association of Ireland case and accepts the ruling.
"The FAI also notes that CAS upheld the association's original findings of manipulation around the Longford Town v Athlone Town fixture on 29 April, 2017. The FAI remains committed to the fight against match-fixing."